Tiny nuclear battery unveiled by researchers

Researchers at the University of Missouri have unveiled tiny nuclear batteries that produce power from the decay of radioisotopes. Although such batteries are currently used in devices such as pacemakers and satellites, they are costly, large and heavy - something which these new penny-sized batteries are not.

Developed by a research team led by Dr Jae Wan Kwon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri University, the team's innovation in creating the battery is not only its size, but its semi-conductor, which is liquid instead of solid.

"The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor," Dr Jae explained. "By using a liquid semiconductor, we believe we can minimize that problem."

So what about the risk of nuclear meltdown? There is none. Although nuclear batteries generate electricity from atomic energy, there is no chain reaction involved, instead using the emissions from a radioactive isotope.

"People hear the word 'nuclear' and think of something very dangerous," said Dr Jae. "However, nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pacemakers, space satellites and underwater systems."

The team now hopes to increase the power of the battery, as well as decrease the size of it further - it could be made thinner than a human hair.


Image source: Gizmag.com

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That is AMAZING... The things that they'll be able to do in the future. For batteries and such in particular I can't wait. That's my biggest complaint with electronics anymore. They do amazing things, but not for long enough. LOL

Well, I won't see any of it since my country is nuclear free.

Got to imagine all the damn greenies and those living in the past protesting all day and night about it if we introduced it.

See, I don't really care about the nuclear side of things. If it makes my stuff last twice as long or more, probably worth it. If it'll only make it last a few more hours/days/weeks then no point!

people saying these kind of batteries can be used for powering mobile devices have no clue. They only generate a tiny current

XerXis said,
people saying these kind of batteries can be used for powering mobile devices have no clue. They only generate a tiny current


way to burst my bubble
guess ill go charge my phone now

XerXis said,
people saying these kind of batteries can be used for powering mobile devices have no clue. They only generate a tiny current

You have to start somewhere.

XerXis said,
people saying these kind of batteries can be used for powering mobile devices have no clue. They only generate a tiny current

The same was probably said for the batteries we use these days.

What happen if you collect hundreds of 'tiny nuclear batteries' together and then put them on fire?

very dangerous.

Strike X said,
What happen if you collect hundreds of 'tiny nuclear batteries' together and then put them on fire?

very dangerous.

You've been watching too much Faux News.

Battery tech is one of the big roadblocks to alternative energy sources. One issue I have with the green energy people is that they seem to live under the impression that pulling on the grass helps it to grow.

Dashel said,
Battery tech is one of the big roadblocks to alternative energy sources. One issue I have with the green energy people is that they seem to live under the impression that pulling on the grass helps it to grow.


It is a very big roadblock, and this one won't help at all.... because it can't be charged and therefore can't be used to store generated alternative energy.

I dont know how long these things last but imagine going to the dealer and buying a car that you never have to worry about fueling.

120 said,
I dont know how long these things last but imagine going to the dealer and buying a car that you never have to worry about fueling.

I'd be just as excited if I bought a cell phone that I never needed to charge... LOL What a happy day that would be!

This is cool. For critical devices, such as the mentioned pacemaker, could help reduce their size. Drug delivery systems being implanted under the skin comes to mind.

It reminded me of this company - Hyperion.... Not quite the same, but harnessing the benefits of nuclear power (both fission and decay), is a good step to getting off oil.

Keep pushing the tech!

What are these batteries geared towards? I imagine these are not the rechargeable kind. But if it were, sure would beat the quantity of the toxic battery material currently entering our landfills.

Why havnt you got your homework?
Well my phone exploded and it was vapourised. :P

You know kids will come up with some amazing excuses from this one hahaha

Did you do your homework Johnny?

I did but my phone had a nuclear meltdown and burned down my entire neighborhood..

That was you????

yea... that was me..

Oh well your excused then, be more careful next time...

(all the kids complain)

When you burn down your neighborhood, I'll excuse you to, now quiet down..

actually they will not be able to explode because there is no chain reaction going on like you have in a power plant or bomb. I would be more worried about radiation leaking out of the battery into you.

Yeah, even if it's generally safe I don't think it'd be a good idea to have them in a laptop, sitting near your testicles for hours every day.

Darrian said,
Yeah, even if it's generally safe I don't think it'd be a good idea to have them in a laptop, sitting near your testicles for hours every day.

HAHAHAHAHA

Obviously not all decay is dangerous - it is everywhere around you now. The scare of all radiation being dangerous is thanks to the standard name of "nuclear power" being derived from the specifics of nuclear power stations (which are actually safer than most other forms of power).

mmck said,
Obviously not all decay is dangerous - it is everywhere around you now. The scare of all radiation being dangerous is thanks to the standard name of "nuclear power" being derived from the specifics of nuclear power stations (which are actually safer than most other forms of power).

Yeah, I find the public's position on nuclear power interesting. They fully accept (And even expect) that everything else does and will advance as time progresses. Yet they don't believe that nuclear power has improved any. Granted nuclear power was relatively safe before save for a equipment failure, but that's just building more failsafes. Things have improved with nuclear power just as they have for everything else.

My big concern would be what to do with all of the nuclear waste. It doesn't ever go away... I think that's what they need to figure out more than anything.

Make one of these the same size as current mobile phone batteries and have it last for months or years rather than hours

as long as i don't get cancer from radioactive emissions, count me in!

I see no energy rating available, but i would assume they last a long time because their in pacemakers. And that they are rechargeable because they are in satellites (not by solar energy but by radiation?).

If they can be made as thin as a hair, i doubt they can stack a bunch of em and put them in daily electronics. But this would be awesome for powering bio-tech (pacemakers aside); as long as I don't get cancer from the radiation emission!

Odom said,
Then Apple can finally have an iPhone that doesn't need charging every single day :)

And they won't be ridiculed for having non user-interchangable batteries any more. They were "ahead of their time", they'll say!

JamesWeb said,
And they won't be ridiculed for having non user-interchangable batteries any more. They were "ahead of their time", they'll say!

Considering the little issues they have with their batteries exploding, I think I'll pass on a nuclear battery from Apple, thanksverymuch.

Odom said,
Then Apple can finally have an iPhone that doesn't need charging every single day :)

...and doesn't explode. It only 'chernobyls' once in a while.

JamesWeb said,
And they won't be ridiculed for having non user-interchangable batteries any more. They were "ahead of their time", they'll say!


Actually these are single use batteries that cannot be recharged. Sure, one would hope their life is very long, but they will die. Unlike normally batteries that drain based on usage, these will constantly drain so their life would be measured in months or years. So having said that I hope devices using such batteries allow replacement. Otherwise they would probably be required to put a warning label someone on the package saying "this device will only function until X date."

Odom said,
Then Apple can finally have an iPhone that doesn't need charging every single day :)

People complain about the iPhone battery, but what they really want is a MIRACLE. The device is able to access full websites wirelessly, check e-mails, get phone calls, play games and music AT THE SAME TIME, weights almost nothing and is very thin AND PEOPLE COMPLAIN OF THE DAMN BATTERY.
Guys, YOU NEED to shut up and get a life. Or buy an additional external battery.

Luis Mazza said,
People complain about the iPhone battery, but what they really want is a MIRACLE. The device is able to access full websites wirelessly, check e-mails, get phone calls, play games and music AT THE SAME TIME, weights almost nothing and is very thin AND PEOPLE COMPLAIN OF THE DAMN BATTERY.
Guys, YOU NEED to shut up and get a life. Or buy an additional external battery.


People complain because it's a big problem. I know several iPhone users that MUST carry a charger cable with them because they know the battery won't last through one single day of moderate use (I'm talking about phone and e-mail - not web surfing, tethering, or listening to music). That's a HUGE problem! Then Apple lacks the foresight to make it so you can at least change the stupid battery?! Yes, people complain because it's a huge problem that Apple continues to ignore. Get over it.

Mega Goatlord said,
Considering the little issues they have with their batteries exploding, I think I'll pass on a nuclear battery from Apple, thanksverymuch.

Lol, as if it was Apple's fault directly, and as if it's going to be Apple's fault if nuclear batteries explode as well. Yeeeahhh...

Tim Dawg said,

People complain because it's a big problem. I know several iPhone users that MUST carry a charger cable with them because they know the battery won't last through one single day of moderate use (I'm talking about phone and e-mail - not web surfing, tethering, or listening to music). That's a HUGE problem! Then Apple lacks the foresight to make it so you can at least change the stupid battery?! Yes, people complain because it's a huge problem that Apple continues to ignore. Get over it.


Well... Users are the ones that should get over it. Not me. If you take a notebook for a ride you should also have to recharge it at the end of the day. If you carry out a POWER GENERATOR to light up your HOUSE, you should also have to recharge it the next day. Get over it! We´re NOT talking about remote controls and watches!!!!

Luis Mazza said,


Well... Users are the ones that should get over it. Not me. If you take a notebook for a ride you should also have to recharge it at the end of the day. If you carry out a POWER GENERATOR to light up your HOUSE, you should also have to recharge it the next day. Get over it! We´re NOT talking about remote controls and watches!!!!

You got to be kidding me. You know ridiculous your statement is? Users getting "over" it? I hope you get the problem by just reading it. End user/customer, getting used to it. I'm just in shock at the ignorance.

Your analogy fails. You take your Notebook for a ride, and you expect to recharge it, fine. Your notebook may be billed as 4 hour battery life, or 8 hour battery life, and should be satisfactory if you get that amount of time, roughly. But when Apple claim their battery lasts up to X amount of time, like 20 hours, but lasts a mere 4 hours with moderate use, that is what fails. iPhone is a phone. My phone could last 3 days without charging with use, least I could expect is iPhone lasting a day without charging.

So what if the iPhone could do pretty much everything and a little more. If the battery life could not support the use of those function, then what use is the useful aspect of phone? What use is a watch if it needs recharging every day? It defeats the purpose of having a watch. A phone is expected to last a day, not half a day. Recharging a phone is expected to be done overnight, not during the lunch break.

The iPhone battery is reasonable, sure if you watch videos, play music, use gps, use wifi etc. you are going to drain the battery, and also stop flaunting every feature to your friends, that gives you more life.

"normal use" will not drain it in a day. Heavy use might.

I have used GPS for 3+ hours and made calls and used wifi for a couple of hours on a single charge on my N97. However it is extremely annoying if you forget to charge it and then want to use it.

Eddo89 said,
You got to be kidding me. You know ridiculous your statement is? Users getting "over" it? I hope you get the problem by just reading it. End user/customer, getting used to it. I'm just in shock at the ignorance.

Your analogy fails. You take your Notebook for a ride, and you expect to recharge it, fine. Your notebook may be billed as 4 hour battery life, or 8 hour battery life, and should be satisfactory if you get that amount of time, roughly. But when Apple claim their battery lasts up to X amount of time, like 20 hours, but lasts a mere 4 hours with moderate use, that is what fails. iPhone is a phone. My phone could last 3 days without charging with use, least I could expect is iPhone lasting a day without charging.

So what if the iPhone could do pretty much everything and a little more. If the battery life could not support the use of those function, then what use is the useful aspect of phone? What use is a watch if it needs recharging every day? It defeats the purpose of having a watch. A phone is expected to last a day, not half a day. Recharging a phone is expected to be done overnight, not during the lunch break.

Take your iPhone to assistance or use it as a normal person, not like a provocative idiot. You´re the ignorant here.

sphbecker said,
Its hard to imagine something that small could power a laptop or cell phone but that sure would be awesome!!

Ummm nuclear produced tons of energy compared to current technology for batteries. This could very well make AA and AAA batteries obsolete in due time. I could also see super-powered batteries that could run powerhouse laptops for 8 hours + in the future once this is perfected.

shinji257 said,
Ummm nuclear produced tons of energy compared to current technology for batteries. This could very well make AA and AAA batteries obsolete in due time. I could also see super-powered batteries that could run powerhouse laptops for 8 hours + in the future once this is perfected.

You do not understand how nuclear batteries work. The power output of nuclear batteries used in pacemakers is less than a watt and the output is proportional to a second order decay function (e.g. e^kt, where k is a constant < 0 and t is the time). If you produced a nuclear battery that could power a laptop, you would probably be able to run it for years, not hours. The problem is that it would be so incredibly large that you would not have any mobility of any kind.

Also, since capturing the heat it generates is absurdly inefficient, you would probably be looking at a battery that also functions as a space heater year-round, producing kilowatts of heat, as nuclear decay rates do not change unless you have a nuclear reaction. Of course, a nuclear reaction would generate heat at a much faster rate.

shinji257 said,
Ummm nuclear produced tons of energy compared to current technology for batteries. This could very well make AA and AAA batteries obsolete in due time. I could also see super-powered batteries that could run powerhouse laptops for 8 hours + in the future once this is perfected.


Thanks SA for covering most of that. The one point that you didn't bring up which this poster seems to not understand is that a battery like this is single use a cannot be recharged.