The person is familiar with nuclear energy in nuclear power plants but not in batteries. Nuclear batteries are in fact closer to nuclear power plants than traditional batteries in that they use radioactivity to generate power instead of storing an amount of charge.
When compared to chemical batteries, nuclear batteries are characterized by higher volumetric energy density (therefore longer battery life) and stronger endurance in harsh conditions. This report will explore the present state of nuclear battery technology and recently discovered possible breakthroughs.
Nuclear batteries use the incredible amount of energy released naturally by tiny bits of radioactive material without any fission or fusion taking place inside the battery.
These devices use thin radioactive films that pack in energy at densities thousands of times greater than those of lithium-ion batteries. Because of the high energy density nuclear batteries are extremely small in size.
How do nuclear battery work?
Nuclear battery technology was first established 1913, when Henry Moseley demonstrated the beta cell. The field received considerable research and attention for applications requiring long-life power sources for space needs during the 1950s. In 1954 RCA (Radio Corporation of America) developed a small nuclear battery for small radio receivers and hearing aids. Nuclear battery is a device which uses energy from the decay of a radioactive isotope to generate electricity.
Like nuclear reactors nuclear battery generate electricity from radiation energy, but differ from them as they do not use a chain reaction. Also known as Atomic Battery and Radioisotope Generator, these batteries generate power in the range of 10 KW to 100 KW.A nuclear battery has a life span of decades and has the potential to be almost 200 times more efficient than presently available batteries.
A nuclear battery is simply a decaying Radio isotopic material whose Beta and Alpha emissions is used to generate energy. In laymen’s term the emission of Beta and Alpha particles provide the main source of the battery.
These emissions are introduced into the electrode which develops the potential difference making the current to flow through the load. There are two ways to convert this decaying radiation to useful electrical energy. They are called as:
Thermal Conversion – In this conversion technique the output power is a function of the temperature difference.
Non-Thermal Conversion – In this conversion technique the output power does not depend on the temperature difference.
Thermionic Conversion- A thermionic converter consists of two electrodes one of which thermionically radiates electrons as it is heated to a high temperature. The other electrode collects these electrons. The space between the electrodes is usually vacuum but sometimes it is filled with cesium vapor to increase the efficiency of the electrodes.
Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generator (RTG)-It is a thermoelectric converter which uses thermocouples to convert the heat energy to electric energy. Each thermocouple is formed from two wires of different metals (or other materials).
A temperature change along the length of the wire produces a voltage change from one end of the wire to the other. It is a static generator with no moving parts. It is the most sought after energy source for unmanned machines and remote location facilities.
- Unlike regular battery they have a life span of decades and can power a device for a long time.
- It is a reliable source of energy and can be used for a long time without and maintenance.
- It delivers a very high density of power and is very light weight.
- Produces little to no waste and does not give out greenhouse gases.
- The fuel used is the waste from a nuclear reactor and is recycled and used as a source for nuclear battery.
- It has a very high initial cost for the production of energy as it is still in experimental stage.
- The energy conversion methodology is not much advanced.
- The Radio isotopic source does not allow it to be used everywhere at least not in the present.
- The exposure to Alpha and Beta radiation is a big health concern. This can be prevented by covering the battery in a thin layer of aluminum to prevent the leakage of radiation.