Liquid Semiconductor Nuclear Batteries Could Be a Blast in Small Devices

October 15, 2009

2 Min Read
Liquid Semiconductor Nuclear Batteries Could Be a Blast in Small Devices

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nuclear-battery

A small nuclear battery is based on liquid semiconductor technology.

A team of researchers led by Jae Kwon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri (MU; Columbia) are developing a new generation of nuclear batteries that are smaller, lighter, and more efficient than already existing ones. Currently the size and thickness of a penny, the battery is intended to power a range of micro- and nanoelectromechanical systems. "To provide enough power, we need certain methods with high energy density," Kwon explains. "The radioisotope battery can provide power density that is six orders of magnitude higher than chemical batteries."The battery is considered innovative not only because of its small size but also because it is based on a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid semiconductor. "The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor," Kwon remarks. "By using a liquid semiconductor, we believe we can minimize that problem."Kwon has been collaborating with J. David Robertson, chemistry professor and associate director of the MU Research Reactor, and is working to build and test the battery at the facility. In the future, he and his team hope to increase the battery's power, shrink its size, and experiment with the use of various materials. Commenting that the battery could be thinner than a human hair, Kwon reports that the team has applied for a provisional patent.Although nuclear batteries can pose concerns, Kwon says they are safe. "People hear the word 'nuclear' and think of something very dangerous," he says. "However, nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pacemakers, space satellites, and underwater systems."

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