A nuclear-powered battery that lasts for 100 years and packs ten times the power of a traditional cell has been unveiled by Russian scientists.
The prototype consists of a semiconductor made from diamond, known as a Schottky diode, and a radioactive chemical that fuels it.
The technology could be used to power everything from permanent pacemakers that never need changing, to manned missions to Mars.
Scientists at Russia’s Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Moscow, insist the technology is safe for everyday use.
The battery is powered by beta radiation – electrons and positrons – which is not dangerous to keep inside the body because it is unlikely to be absorbed by our cells.
Professor Vladimir Blank, director of the research, said: ‘The results so far are already quite remarkable and can be applied in medicine and space technology.’
Nuclear-powered batteries have been around for a century, but are usually too large to be of any practical use.
The Russian cell uses a new structure to make it much more compact, meaning it puts out 3,300 milliwatt-hours of power per gram – ten times more than commercially available chemical cell batteries.
The device uses the isotope nickel-63, which decays and fires out high-speed electrons known as beta particles into layers of nickel foil, generating electricity.
The battery can continue producing power for a century, which is the length of time it takes for the radioactivity in nickel-63 to reach its half-life.
In experiments the device achieved power of ten microwatts per cubic centimetre (166 microwatts per cubic inch) – enough for a modern artificial pacemaker.
Most state-of-the-art cardiac pacemakers are over ten cubic centimetres (0.6 cubic inches) in size and require about ten microwatts of power.
That means the new battery could be used to power these devices without any significant changes to their design and size.
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