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Radioisotope Batteries for

MEMS
Jake Blanchard
University of Wisconsin
January 2005
Introduction
• Radioisotope batteries provide reliable
batteries with high energy density
• They are valuable when long life is needed
and recharging or refueling is difficult
• Many of the conversion technologies can
function in harsh environments
• They can be very useful as onboard MEMS
power sources
What is a Nuclear Battery?
• Goal: convert energy from radioactive
decay to electricity
• Options:
– Direct charge collection
– Indirect (scintillation)
– Betavoltaic
– Thermoelectric
– Thermionic
– thermophotovoltaic
Comparison
• Consider 1 mg for power source

Source Energy Content (mW-hr)

Chemical Battery (Li-ion) 0.3

Fuel Cell (methanol, 50%) 3


210-Po (5% - 4 years) 3000
3-H (5% - 4 years) 500
Isotope Selection
• Type of radiation
– Alpha
– Beta
• Half-Life
– Long -> Long battery life
– Short -> Higher power
• Avoid gammas in the decay chain
• Watch out for (alpha, n) reactions
• Watch particle range
Radioisotopes and decay
N-4 N
N M-2 Y N M-1Y
MX MX
4 e - νe
α-decay 2He β-decay

Isotope Average Half Specific Specific Power


energy life activity Power Density
(KeV) (year) (Ci/g) (W/g) (W/cc)
63-Ni 17 100 57 0.0067 0.056
3-H 5.7 12 9700 0.33 -
90-Sr/ 200/930 29/2 d 140 0.98 2.5
90-Y
210-Po 5300 0.38 4500 140 1300
238-Pu 5500 88 17 0.56 11
244-Cm 5810 18 81 2.8 38
Direct conversion nuclear battery
• Direct conversion nuclear
Collector
battery: collecting charges
emitted from radioisotopes with a
High voltage capacitor to achieve high voltage

Radioisotope
output
(J. H. Coleman, 1953)
Q
V =
C
•10-100 kV voltages can be
created in vacuum
Static Accumulation
•Early 1950’s
•Source at K
•D is electrical insulator
•Chamber is evacuated

•0.25 Ci Sr-90
•365 kV
•About 1 nA
•0.2 mW
Linder, Rappaport, Loferski
Adding a Dielectric
•Early 1950’s
•Source at S
•D is dielectric; C is collector
•Radiation penetrates dielectric

•No need for vacuum


•High voltage
•Prevents secondary electrons from
getting back to source
•50 mCi Sr-90
•polystyrene
•7 kV
Keller et al
Secondary Collector

•Use beta source


•MgO used to maximize
secondary’s
•Collector is graphite
coated Al
•1e-5 mm Hg vacuum

Shorr
Contact Potential
• Ionize gas between two
plates
• Dissimilar plates will
develop potential due to
differing work functions
• Low efficiency (low
absorption coefficient) and
high ionization energy (30
eV)
• Operates at 1-2 V

Shorr
Pacemakers

• 3 Ci Pu-238
• ~3 ounces, ~3 inches
• <mW power levels
• 100 mrem/y to patient
• Since supplanted by Li
batteries (~10 yr life)
• Regulators nervous
about tracking Pu

http://www.naspe.org/library/electricity_and_the_heart/
Radioisotope Thermoelectric
Generators (RTGs)
• Used in many NASA • Fuel: 2.7 kg. 133 kCi
missions • Power: 276 W
• Use radoisotope • Power (11 years): 216 W
(usually ceramic Pu- • Total Weight: 56 kg
238) to provide heat
• Lifetime: over 20 years
• Electricity produced by
thermoelectric • Dimensions: D=42 cm,
L=114 cm
• No moving parts
• 41 have been flown by
US
Heating Units

• NASA’s RHU
• 33 Ci
• Power is 1 W
• 1.4 oz.
• 1 cubic inch
• 2.7 g of Pu-238 (oxide form)
• Rugged, reliable
http://nuclear.gov/space/rhu-fact.html
A Compact Thermoelectric

40 mW electric power
John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Hi-Z Technology and JPL 240 cm3, 300 g total weight
Betavoltaic Microbattereis
• First type: planar Si pn-diode with electroplated 63Ni
DIP Leads Glass 0

C u rren t (n A )
package 0 50 100 150 0.25mCi 1mCi
-1
Ip 0.71nA 2.41nA
-2 Voc 64mW 115mV
Electroplated PN-diode -3 Pmax 0.04nW 0.24nW
63Ni thin film Voltage (mV)

- Nanopower( 0.04~0.24nW) obtained/ - No performance degradation after 1 year

• Second type: inverted pyramid array Si pn-diode


Glass

P
N

63NiCl/HCI solution
(8µCi/µl)
- Area magnification: 1.85 / - 0.32nW (128mV/2.86nA) obtained

• Efficiency:0.03~0.1% ~10 times > micromachined RTG


Electron-Hole Pairs Generation
• Different junction depths using spin-on glass dopant diffusion
- Boron dopant glass from Filmtronics is spinned on n-type wafer
- diffusion time up to 72hours at 1050oC Boron SOD glass
• Determination if generated electron-hole
pairs( EHPs) N
- 0.25mCi is used
- short-circuit current is tested for each device
• - Number of EHPs is obtained by dividing 1000

N u m b er o f EH P s
short-circuit current over flux of emitted 800
electrons (0.25×10-3×3.7×1010×1.6×10-19 ) 600
• Ability of 63Ni current multiplication: 400
1 electron/betas can generate ~920 200
EHPs in average. 0
0 20 40 60
• The electron emitted from Ni63 could Junction Depth (µ m)
travel in silicon up to ~40 µm. Thus,
minority carrier diffusion length LN >
40 µm
MicroPower Prediction Using Higher Radioactivity
• Currently 1mCi of 63Ni is used
- Source density of~0.0625mCi/mm2 2 ~8nW/cm2
• 10mCi~100mCi of 63Ni is expected to be used
- Source density is ~1~2mCi/mm2
- 100nW ~200nW can be obtained 100~200nW/cm2
• Energy conversion efficiency of 0.5~1% is expected to be
achieved
- Theoretical conversion efficiency: 3~5%
( 920EHPs vs. 5200 (=17.3Kev/3.5eV) EHPs)
- Leakage current density (1.5pA/mm2 vs. 0.3pA/mm2) still can be reduced.

0.8 150 0.3


Output Power

Output power

V o lt a g e ( V )
0.6

O p e n C irc u it
100 0.2
(nW)

(nW)

0.4
50 0.1 A
0.2
A A
0 0 0
0 0.6 1.2 0 30 60 90 0 3000 6000 9000
Activity(m Ci) (I p /I 0 )
Sour ce De ns ity (m Ci/m m 2 )
Latest Development : Using Radioisotope 147Pm
• Another way to raise power output : using high energy power
source
- 147Pm, with Eavg= 62 keV and Emax= 220 keV and half-life of 2.6 year is also
a promising pure beta source for microbattery.
-1µm of SiO2 is used as protection layer
• Preliminary
- Device area : 2mm ×3mm
Results - 5mCi of 147Pm is used
147Pm - test result : Is= 140nA, Voc=183mV, Pmax = 16.8nW
SiO2 - Conversion efficiency: 0.62%
P - long-term stability is under test
N
0.E+00
0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20
Current (A)

-4.E-08

-8.E-08

-1.E-07
Voltage (V)
Direct conversion of
emitted charges to mechanical motion

Cantilever
- ---
-------
-
Radioisotope ++++++

(β source)
- -
ƒ Low energy from
source is integrated
over time to + +

achieve high
instantaneous -----
------
power. ++++++

ƒ Continuous ++
--
reciprocation for 4
weeks has been Direct
achieved. Tunneling contact
Electromechanical model
Charge conservation:
αI V ∂ ⎛V ⎞
− − ε0 ⎜ ⎟=0
A RA ∂t ⎝ d ⎠
Force balance:
V2
k (d 0 − d ) − ε 0 A 2 = 0
d
∂d 2 2αI
= (d 0 − d )d − d0 − d
∂t ε 0 RA ε 0 kA
Previous work: self reciprocating cantilever: SIZE

Experimental data
30 Calculated values

Distance (µm)
20

10

0
0 2 4 6
Time (minute)

ƒInitial gap (d0): 33 µm


ƒPeriod: 6 min. 8 sec.
ƒResidual charges: 2.3×10-11C
ƒPeak force (kd0): 10.1 µN
ƒAssumed Collection efficiency
(α): 10%
Self-reciprocating SiN cantilever
• The cantilever is made of
low stress SiN thin film
with dimensions 500 µm
× 300 µm × 1.7 µm .
• The cantilever is
mounted on a DIP
1.2
Blue: measured deflection
package for wire
1
Red: signal from the Wheatstone bridge bonding.
• Four poly resistors form a
0.8
Wheatstone bridge to
Distance ( µm)

0.6 measure the deflection of


the cantilever.
0.4
• The signal from the
0.2 Wheatstone bridge is
sent to an
0
0 5 10 15 20
Time (s)
25 30 35 instrumentation amplifier
and then output from the
amplifier is measured.
Self-powered: Sensor/Actuator/Transmitter:
Reciprocation of a PZT beam results in RF output
0.3 •Sudden current release results in
excitation of electrical and
0.2
mechanical modes of the system
0.1
•RF frequency of 60-260 MHz due
Voltage (V)

0 to distributed waveguide

-0.1
•Thickness mode of PZT at 21 MHz
results in modulation of RF =>
-0.2 mechanically sensed signal can be
transmitted as RF in a highly
-0.5 0 0.5 1
Time (µs)
1.5 2 2.5 compact manner
PZT PZT dV
I = C1 C4 C1
C1 C3
ε dt
C3
Au electrodes
C2 C2
To oscilloscope To oscilloscope
Nickel-63 source
Nickel-63 source
(a) (b)
Self-powered RF Pressure Sensor
0.85 1 cm PZT
cantilever
Coil
0.8

Current (pA)
0.75
Antenna
PZT cantilever
PZT 0.7
C1 C3
ε A Electrons Vacuum
Au electrodes 0.65 To vacuum wax Glass cover
C2
pump
Nickel-63 source Nickel-63
0.6 Figure 8. A PZT cantilever is mounted inside a chip carrier.
(a) 0 200 400 600 800
A self made coil is soldered to it. The glass cover is glued to
Pressure (mTorr)
Antenna Impulse excitation the package with a high molecular weight vacuum wax that
Figure 2. The current provided by the 63Ni source varies can provide good sealing for the vacuum needed. An inlet
with the pressure. on the backside provides connection to a vacuum system.
PZT
80

60
Displacement I = C dV
1
current dt 40

(b) Nickel-63 source 20

Voltage (mV)
Figure 5. (a) The capacitance of the piezoelectric 0

cantilever builds up an electric field as the charges are


-20
built on the two electrodes. (b) The sudden shorting of the
charge on one side results in a sudden release of the -40
electric field and hence the voltage across the cantilever.
This results in a current I = C1 dV/dt that excites the -60

dielectric RF mode of the PZT.


-80
-1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5
Time (µ s)

Figure 9. A typical pulse detected by the coil placed


0.1 m away from the DIP package. The frequency is
100 MHz. The peak-to-peak voltage is 138 mV.
Summary
• Radioisotopes provide a high energy
density power source suitable for many
applications
• They are outstanding for small scale
power