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Nuclear Power For Your Car

September 18, 2014 | 1 Comment
University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) researchers have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear
battery. Its built from a radioactive isotope called strontium 90 that boosts electrochemcial energy in a
water-based solution with a nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode with a platinum coating collecting
and effectively converting energy into electrons.

(a), Schematic view of the testing setup for platinum/nanoporous titanium dioxide under irradiation and
a photograph of the Strontium-90/Yittrium 90 source with gas bubbles attached to the outer surface of
the PET film. (b), Schematic diagram and photograph of the platinum/nanoporous titanium dioxide
electrode. Click image for more info.
The idea has many high power applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in
complicated applications such as space flight. Its a superlative idea that is now working.
The research paper Plasmon Assisted Radiolytic Energy Conversion In Aqueous Solutions, was
published in Nature and is available in full at this writing.
Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and nuclear engineering in
the College of Engineering at MU said, Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from
radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s. Controlled nuclear technologies are not
inherently dangerous. We already have many commercial uses of nuclear technologies in our lives
including fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.
The nuclear name part is going to be the problem. After all, strontium 90 is a long way from uranium
235 or plutonium 244 (atomic numbers respectively, 38, 92 & 94). Strontium 90 is a beta emitter, the
radiation energy that powers the battery. Still, beta emitters are not something a home shop operator

should be working with, as light shielding is required. Sealed within few millimeters of aluminum would
Kwon explains the system, Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned
out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency. The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low
temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including car batteries and, if packaged
properly, perhaps spacecraft.
The MU battery demonstrates that liquids can be an excellent media for effective energy conversion from
radioisotopes. The water based ionic fluid is also contributes to the shielding. The battery is also a direct
conversion method producing electric power straight from energetic particles rather than an indirect
conversion methods such as collecting electricity from the secondary energy forms of heat or light.
How the battery works is the beta particles produce electron-hole pairs in semiconductors via their loss
of kinetic energy and can contribute to the generation of electric power.
So far the solid beta decay battery design problem has been serious radiation damage to the lattice
structures of semiconductors and subsequent performance degradation due to the high kinetic energy of
the beta particles pounding the solid construction to pieces.
The MU battery stands out with the major benefit of utilizing a liquid-phase material and the liquids
well-known ability to efficiently absorb the kinetic energy of beta particles. The fluid absorbs the energy
and passes much of it to the semiconductor.
This is where the innovation or breakthrough comes in. Since the advent of nuclear power, liquids have
been intensively studied for use as a radiation-shielding material. Large amounts of radiation energy can
be absorbed by water. When radiation energy is absorbed by an aqueous solution, free radicals can be
produced through radiolytic interactions. The MU battery demonstrates a new method for the generation
of electricity using a device that separates the radiolytic current from the free radicals by splitting the

plasmon-assisted radiolytic water splitter. Click image for more info.

The water splitter is composed of a nanoporous semiconductor coated with a thin platinum film to
produce a specially designed metal-semiconductor junction. For the semiconductor they used a very
stable and common large band gap oxide material, titanium dioxide (white paint pigment), because of
the large band gap oxide materials offer as a semiconducting catalyst that can improve the radiolysis
What happens is during the spitting high-energy beta radiation the device can produce free radicals in
water through the loss of kinetic energy. In a meta-stable state, the free radicals are recombined into
water molecules or trapped in water molecules. Then the free radicals produced by the radiation can be
converted into electricity by a plasmon-assisted, wide band gap oxide semiconducting material.
How good is this first lab theory test battery? Hold on to something . . .
The maximum energy conversion efficiency of the MU battery was approximately estimated to be
53.88%. This is an astonishing number for a first trial design.

Thats enough for a news type of posting. For more information the paper can be read in full online at
this writing. Some of you are going to realize that strontium 90 has a half life of 28.79 years. The
implications of that thought are mind boggling.
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