Batteries are essential items for everyday life, but they are notoriously bad for the environment and hard to dispose of, but researchers think that nuclear batteries could change that. A team of scientists and researchers from the University of Missouri believe they have created a long-lasting and efficient nuclear battery thanks to a new water-based solution. They hope that the new battery would be able to be used in everything from cars to future manned space flight.
“Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and nuclear engineering in the College of Engineering at MU. “Controlled nuclear technologies are not inherently dangerous. We already have many commercial uses of nuclear technologies in our lives including fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.”
If you were concerned that a nuclear battery doesn’t sound safe, this won’t alleviate your worries: the battery uses a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 that boosts electro-chemcial energy when placed in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode with a platinum coating then collects and effectively converts energy into electrons. “Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency,” Kwon said. “The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including car batteries and, if packaged properly, perhaps spacecraft.”
Maybe so, but as long as they’re not used in everyday items like remote controls and flashlights – perhaps having so many nuclear devices around the house isn’t such a great idea. You can read the entire report, which was published in the latest issue of Nature, here.