How long does your phone battery last? A day or two or less than that? Be it the rechargeable battery at your home or office, and no battery can last a hundred years. But this nuclear battery can power a spacecraft for more than a hundred years. Unlike the conventional cells used in autonomous electrical devices, which require chemical reactions to transfer electrons or charged particles, nuclear batteries are a source of continuous and lasting power.
This battery has been designed by Russian researchers, which uses Nicol-63 isotope and diamond diode to create 3,300 milliwatt-hours of power per gram. If the battery could be used for commercial purposes, it will prove to be revolutionary. Nuclear batteries have been invented earlier too. In 1913, Henry Moseley came up with a first version which was later updated in 1953 when beta decay was used to convert the energy into electricity by Paul Rappaport. The semiconducting materials and beta decay paved the path to creating the nuclear-powered cell we are talking about now.
These cells will not only help in space but on earth too. We have pacemakers to help people live longer but of the battery dies, so does the human. These batteries, however, have not been developed for health products. The replaceable and rechargeable chemical batteries get drained out very quickly. This is a big problem and rules out all the advantages of such cells.
Betavoltaic cells are better as compared to galvanic cells since their life is much longer. Radioactive isotopes can have experience up to several hundred years. But on other aspects – density, power, etc.- they are inferior to later.
Vladimir Blank, the team leader and director of the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials (TISNCM) is striving hard to improve the cell furthermore, at least up to tenfold. The prototype developed has 200 diamond converters along with nickel-63 and layers of Nickel foil. This would be quite challenging economically too, said MIPT since high-quality diamond substrates are not very cheap and on such a massive level, they can be an enormous barrier. However, the battery is ready for the test, and everyone is waiting to see what is coming next. Everybody is optimistic and wants to perform even better. They are trying to increase the voltage and battery output and enhance the surface area of the converter by increasing the number of nickel-63 atoms per converter.