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Engineers Develop Commercial Water-Based Nuclear Battery


strontium-nuclear-betavoltaic-battery-640x352When it comes to energy storage, people have looked into countless means and technologies, yet the winning long-lasting and super efficient breakthrough is still to come. The latest contender for this title comes from a team from University of Missouri, who propose a new type of water-based nuclear battery to power future vehicles and spacecrafts.

The idea for the technology dates way back to the 1950s, however it has never been developed into a safe and usable mean for power storage and supply. The team led by associate professor of electrical and nuclear engineering, Jae W. Kwon, claim to have finally managed to achieve that, quite a few years after we first told you about their line of research in the field of nuclear batteries.

The technology known as “betavoltaic¬†battery” is essentially a device that contains radioactive strontium-90 and water. The isotope is used to boost the electrochemical energy in the water solution, and thanks to a nanostructured platinum-coated titanium dioxide electrode, this energy is converted into electricity. The water acts as a protection, while so-called “surface plasmons” increase the efficiency. The electrons in the water solution prevent it from freezing, which makes the technology suitable for use both in cars and spacecrafts.

Of course, the main concern associated with the technology is safety. Although nuclear technologies are everywhere around us, before the invention is being put into commercial use, it will have to pass quite a huge number of tests. In fact, even the developers are not entirely certain that there will ever be a proper casing for the batteries that will be able to protect them, once they are connected to an electrical equipment, especially if the technology is to be used on spacecrafts.

Nevertheless, the authors claim that it is safe, just like any other controlled nuclear technology. They say that it should be treated with the same level of cautiousness, as the nuclear fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.

Technical details about which can be found in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

Image (C) University of Missouri

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