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Nuclear Battery — Powering the Future with Radioactivity & Diamond

What if you didn’t have to recharge your phone’s battery ever again? What if you didn’t need to put your smartwatch on the charging puck every night? How would you feel if your drone stayed perpetually afloat?

With our daily routine of charging phones and personal devices every day of our lives, having a battery that will power our devices uninterrupted-perpetually is nothing short of a dream. However, a new modular nuclear battery from a Chinese tech company, Betavolt New Energy Technology, might just be making this dream a reality.

The radioactivity-powered battery that they have developed can power a device for 50 years without needing any recharge or any sort of maintenance.

These batteries work using the radioactivity of some beta-emitting radioactive elements and diamond as the semiconductor, which is why they are often called Diamond Battery or Nuclear Diamond Battery.

For this particular nuclear battery by Betavolt, they used the Nickel-63 isotope which is a radioactive element and 4th gen diamond semiconductor.

Nuclear diamond batteries harness the beta particle (β) emitting properties of the radioactive element, 63Ni in this case. Beta particles are high-velocity, high-energy electrons and positrons. When these Beta particles are released on the diamond layer, it generates electric current using the emitting particles.

The thought of having radioactive elements in your devices may seem a bit jarring at first. But this type of battery generates electricity instead of storing it chemically within, making them much safer than other conventional and flammable batteries that we use.

This class of batteries is known as Betavoltaic batteries. They might seem like a revolutionary technology of the future but they have been around since the 1950s in the form of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG). In RTGs, the heat generated from the radioactive elements is used to generate electricity. They were mostly used in maritime research, interstellar exploration, and other advanced fields.

Unlike the modern nuclear battery, RTGs use heat from the isotopes, making them a safety risk to be used in households. That’s why they never made it to consumer electronics. However, companies like Betavolt and United States-based NDB developed a way to harness the beta emission of radioactive isotopes instead of the heat. Besides, the Betavolt battery’s Nickel-63 isotope decays over time and eventually turns into Copper, which is not radioactive, leaving behind a safer remnant that has minimum impact on the environment. That’s why newer beta-emission-reliant electricity-generating nuclear batteries are much safer and suitable for use in consumer electronics.

BV100, Betavolt’s new 3-volt 100-microwatt nuclear battery with a tiny dimension of 15 mm x 15 mm x 5 mm, is already in pilot production and ready to be mass-produced. Next year, they are preparing to release a bigger 1-watt battery that has an energy density of 10 times of the lithium-ion batteries we have on our smartphones.

These new batteries are not explosive and flammable like lithium batteries, have higher energy density than conventional energy storage solutions, and most importantly, could last decades without needing any recharge or maintenance whatsoever.

Once readily available for adoption by the tech world, electronics, personal gadgets, electric vehicles, and medical aid devices like pacemakers would last the lifetime of the device itself, maybe even beyond that.

While Betavolt claimed that their battery would last for 50 years, another company, US-based NDB, worked on their own Nano Diamond Battery made from nuclear waste and claimed couple years ago that theirs would last 28,000 years.

Even though some people are still skeptical about the use of radioactive isotopes in at-home personal devices, this technology is bound to make its way into everyday appliances, public areas, and consumer electronics sooner rather than later.


Author – Rifat Ahmed

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