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An optolectric nuclear battery has been developed by researchers of the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. A beta-emitter such as technetium-99 or strontium-90 is suspended in a gas or liquid containing luminescent gas molecules of the excimer type, constituting a "dust plasma." This permits a nearly lossless emission of beta electrons from the emitting dust particles for excitation of the gases whose excimer line is selected for the conversion of the radioactivity into a surrounding photovoltaic layer such that a comparably light weight low pressure, high efficiency battery can be realised. These nuclides are low cost radioactive waste of nuclear power reactors. The diameter of the dust particles is so small (a few micrometers) that the electrons from the beta decay leave the dust particles nearly without loss. The surrounding weakly ionized plasma consists of gases or gas mixtures (e.g. krypton, argon, xenon) with excimer lines, such that a considerable amount of the energy of the beta electrons is converted into this light. The surrounding walls contain photovoltaic layers with wide forbidden zones as 3.g. diamond which convert the optical energy generated from the radiation into electric energy.
The battery would consist of an excimer of argon, xenon, or krypton (or a mixture of two or three of them) in a pressure vessel with an internal mirrored surface, finely-ground radioisotope, and an intermittent ultrasonic stirrer, illuminating a photocell with a bandgap tuned for the excimer. When the beta active nuclides (e.g. krypton-85 or argon-39) are excited, their own electrons in the narrow excimer band at a minimum of thermal losses that this radiation is converted in a high band gap photovoltaic layer (e.g. in p-n diamond) very efficiently into electricity. The electric power per weight compared with existing radionuclide batteries can then be increased by a factor 10 to 50 and more. If the pressure-vessel is carbon fiber/epoxy the weight to power ratio is said to be comparable to an air-breathing engine with fuel tanks. The advantage of this design is that precision electrode assemblies are not needed, and most beta particles escape the finely-divided bulk material to contribute to the battery's net power. The disadvantage consists in the high price of the radionuclides and in the high pressure of up to 10 MPa (100 bar) and more for the gas that requires an expensive and heavy container.
- Atomic battery
- Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generator
- Radioisotope piezoelectric generator
Polymers, Phosphors, and Voltaics for Radioisotope Microbatteries, by Kenneth E. Bower (Editor), et al
Categories: Physics stubs | Nuclear technology | Electric batteries