A Chinese company has developed a battery that promises to produce electricity for 50 years without the need for maintenance or charge.
With 63 radioactive isotopes packed into a module no bigger than a coin, Beijing-based Betavolt claims that its nuclear battery is the first in the world to realize the miniaturization of atomic energy.
According to the startup, the next-generation battery is currently undergoing pilot testing and will eventually be manufactured in large quantities for use in commercial applications such as drones and phones.
“Betavolt atomic energy batteries can meet the needs of long-lasting power supply in multiple scenarios, such as aerospace, AI equipment, medical equipment, microprocessors, advanced sensors, small drones and micro-robots,” the firm said in a press release.
“This new energy innovation will help China gain a leading edge in the new round of the AI technological revolution.”
The technique by which the battery generates electricity from the energy released by isotopes decaying was initially investigated in the 20th century.
Although thermonuclear batteries were expensive and large, scientists in the US and the USSR were able to develop the technology for use in spacecraft, undersea systems, and remote research stations.
Under China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, which aims to bolster the nation’s economy between 2021 and 2025, the quest to miniaturize and commercialize nuclear batteries was launched, and research institutes in the US and Europe are also working on their development.
According to Betavolt, their first nuclear battery is 15x15x5 cubic millimeters and can produce 100 microwatts of electricity at a voltage of 3V. By 2025, however, the company hopes to produce a battery that can produce 1 watt of power.
The company envisions smartphones that never need to be charged and drones that can fly forever because of their small size, which allows them to be used in series to generate additional power. According to Betavolt, its layered architecture prevents it from catching fire or exploding in the event of a sudden force and enables it to function in temperatures ranging from -60C to 120C.
“The atomic energy battery developed by Betavolt is absolutely safe, has no external radiation, and is suitable for use in medical devices such as pacemakers, artificial hearts and cochleas in the human body,” the company said.
“Atomic energy batteries are environmentally friendly. After the decay period, the 63 isotopes turn into a stable isotope of copper, which is non-radioactive and does not pose any threat or pollution to the environment.