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Water-based Nuclear Battery Generates Electricity

23 September 2014

University of Missouri researchers have successfully harnessed a nuclear battery betavoltaics to develop a reliable energy source in automobiles as well as for space flight.

Most nuclear power sources use nuclear radiation to generate heat, which then is used to generate electricity. Betavoltaics use a non-thermal conversion process, converting the electron-hole pairs produced by the ionization trail of beta particles traversing a semiconductor.

“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.

The researchers demonstrated the new method for generating electricity separating the radiolytic current from the free radicals by splitting the water.

Kwon assured that controlled nuclear technologies are not inherently dangerous. Many commercial uses of nuclear technologies are including in fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.

The battery used the strontium-90 radioactive isotope to boost electrochemical energy in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode with a platinum coating collected and effectively converted energy into electrons. Titanium dioxide is used in sunscreens and UV blockers.

The MU researchers showed that liquids effectively convert energy from radioisotopes, unlike conventional energy converters that use radioisotopes almost exclusively focused on solid-state materials.

They claim their work can lead to the development of next-generation power sources.

The research was published in Nature.

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