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Radioactive Laptop Batteries could supply 30 years of Continuous power

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Tired of carrying your laptop charger and spare batteries around? Soon you won’t have to.

Thanks to work being funded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, laptop batteries could have a continuous power battery that lasts for 30 years without a single recharge.

Scientists have developed the breakthrough betavoltaic power cells that are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source.

As the radioactive material decays, it emits beta particles that transform into electric power that is capable of fuelling an electrical device like a laptop for years.

Are they harmful?

Though they sound nuclear, they’re not. They don’t use fission, fusion, or chemical processes to produce energy and therefore don’t produce any radioactive or hazardous waste. Betavoltaics generate power when an electron strikes a particular interface between 2 layers of material. The process uses beta electron emissions that occur when a neutron decays into a proton, which causes a forward bias in the semiconductor. This makes the betavoltaic cell a forward bias diode of sorts, similar in some respects to a photovoltaic (solar) cell. Electrons scatter out of their normal orbits in the semiconductor and into the circuit, creating a usable electric current.

The profile of the batteries can be quite small and thin. A porous silicon material is used to collect the hydrogen isotope tritium, which is generated in the process. The reaction is non-thermal, which means laptops and other small devices like mobile phones will run much cooler than with traditional lithium-ion power batteries.

The best part about these cells is when they eventually run out of power: They’re totally inert and non-toxic, so environmentalists needn’t fear these high-tech scientific wonder batteries. If all goes well, plans are for these cells to reach store shelves in 2 or 3 years.

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2 Comments

  1. big kate July 17, 2010

    let me get this right
    left over at the end will be a silicon impregnated with tritium? Tritium that has a half life of 12.5 years. tritium that is used to make hydrogen weapons?

    Yeah - might be non-toxic but safe?????

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  3. cedric April 8, 2011

    The decays of Tritium is a fission process and indeed tritium is radioactive.

    It is correct that Tritium is generated in the process but it’s the opposite, the product use tritium as a fuel,

    The half life of tritium is around 12 years, which means that 12 years after purchases, your batteries only produce half of that it use to, when it reach 10 percent of it’s nominal power you do like every body else:you throw it in the garbage where it go to the incinerator, the tritium which have similar propriety than hydrogen combine with oxygen to form watter that in return you drink, so it’s not danger free.

    In the category of very bad good idea to power your laptop (whichh won’t last as long as the battery in the previous case) there is the Radioisotope thermoelectric generator which not only power your laptop but also warm up your house. They should arrive on the market soon after they start processing the nuclear reactor from Fukushima…

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