First consumer nuclear power battery could be on the market by 2025

18/01/2024
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Betavolt Technology, a Chinese company specializing in the manufacture of semiconductors, batteries, and new materials, has announced that it has developed a battery that runs on nuclear power.

Called the BV100, this 15 x 15 x 5 mm nuclear battery, which is designed to have a 50-year lifespan, can produce 100 microwatts at 3 volts. At first glance, this seems like a small amount of power, but Betavolt says it is possible to use several of these batteries in series or in parallel to meet the needs of devices such as smart sensors, small drones, robots, medical devices, aerospace devices, and even smartphones.

To achieve this, it uses the natural decay of the unstable isotope nickel-63 into a stable isotope of copper, in combination with a sophisticated diamond semiconductor that allows stable operation in a temperature range from -60 to 120°C.

Its structure resembles that of a sandwich in which layers of nickel-63, which are 2 microns thick, alternate with layers of the semiconductor material, which are 10 microns thick. Roughly speaking, these interleaved layers are responsible for converting nuclear energy into electrical energy.

The use of isotopes has generated some scepticism about the safety of their use, but Betavolt claims that its technology is safe and requires no maintenance.

Most strikingly, the BV100 battery only has to pass safety tests before it can go into full-scale production, so it could be commercially available by 2025.

In the future, Betavolt expects it to be able to power up to 1 volt. To this end, it is researching other isotopes such as strontium-90, deuterium, or promethium-147, which could theoretically supply more energy and last up to 230 years.