Technology

Atomic energy battery: Innovation promises 50-year phone charge

charge

The atomic battery's energy density will be more than 10 times that of ternary lithium batteries and it will be able to store 3,300 megawatt hours in a 1-gram battery. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Reports of Chinese firm Betavolt’s ground-breaking prototype battery capable of powering smartphones for up to 50 years without the need for additional charge have elicited excitement among industry players and consumers alike.

The firm termed the development the world’s first miniaturised atomic energy system, noting that the nuclear battery utilises up to 63 nuclear isotopes compactly arranged within a module that is smaller than a coin.

According to Betavolt’s statement seen by the Business Daily, the battery employs a technology that converts the energy released from decaying isotopes into electrical energy through semiconductor converters, a concept that was reportedly first explored in the 20th century.

“This product combines nickel -63 nuclear isotope decay technology and China's first diamond semiconductor (4th generation semiconductor) module to successfully realise the miniaturisation of atomic energy batteries, modularisation and low cost, starting the process of civilian use,” stated the Beijing-based manufacturer.

“Betavolt atomic energy batteries can generate electricity stably and autonomously for 50 years without the need for charging or maintenance,” added Betavolt noting that it had entered the piloting stage whose success would allow mass production.

In the communiqué, the firm also said that its atomic energy batteries will have capabilities to meet the needs of long-lasting power supply in multiple scenarios such as in aerospace, artificial intelligence (AI) equipment, medical equipment, advanced sensors, small drones as well as micro-robots.

How it was made

Betavolt says that to achieve the milestone, it deployed a team of its scientists to develop a unique single-crystal diamond semiconductor that was just 10 microns thick, placing a two-micron-thick nickel -63 sheet between two diamond semiconductor converters.

The decay energy of the radioactive source is converted into an electric current, which then forms an independent unit.

The manufacturer draws a distinction between its intended product and nuclear batteries saying that the latter are modular and can be composed of dozens or hundreds of independent unit modules, and they can be used in series as well as in parallel forms, meaning battery products of different sizes and capacities can be manufactured.

According to the firm’s CEO Zhang Wei, the first product the company will launch will be dubbed BV100, and it will be the world’s first nuclear battery to be mass-produced.

“The power is 100 microwatts, the voltage is 3V, and the volume is 15 X 15 X 5 Cubic millimeters which is smaller than a coin,” stated Wei.

“Nuclear batteries generate electricity every minute, 8.64 joules per day, and 3153 joules per year. Multiple such batteries can be used in series and parallel. The company plans to launch a battery with a power of 1 watt in 2025.”

The progress of the project is however tied to policy permits.

Battery features

The atomic battery's energy density will be more than 10 times that of ternary lithium batteries and it will be able to store 3,300 megawatt hours in a 1-gram battery.

“It will not catch fire or explode in response to acupuncture and gunshots. Because it generates electricity automatically for 50 years, there is no concept of the number of cycles like there is in an electrochemical battery (2000 charges and discharges),” says the firm.

“The power generation of atomic energy batteries is stable and will not change due to harsh environments and loads. It can work normally within the range of 120 degrees above zero and -60 degrees below zero, and has no self-discharge.”

On the local scene, consumers have raised concerns about the health and safety guarantees of the radioactive batteries, as well as the cost implication of the new invention.

If successful, the project would usher in a new era of comfort and convenience, especially in third-world economies where phone charging hustles often take a toll on users due to disruptions such as power outages.

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