The Role of Nuclear Battery for Smartphones

In smart phones, batteries play a major role in providing power. Scientists as well as technology firms are continually looking for means to better the life of these batteries and their efficiency. The University of Missouri lately came up with a more efficient nuclear battery that is long lasting. This battery is capable of running several applications including a space flight. They also act as a reliable energy source in automobiles.

Search for alternative sources of energy has made scientists indulge in extensive research in almost all fields to gather information on how to tackle the challenge of battery life of batteries used in various devices such as phones and laptops and come up with ones that are more efficient than the existing chemical batteries. The basic idea the researchers have been developing is that instead of consuming or utilizing the power in a battery`s chemical gradient, for instant in Lithium batteries, to employ the energy emitted by the decaying of isotopes of radioactive elements in a natural manner to generate energy. These batteries are referred to as nuclear batteries.

Problem definition

Nuclear batteries in smartphones emit radiation and in case of a leakage they can cause cancer and even death. For example, the gamma rays which have intense, penetrating power can only be checked with the introduction of a large lead lump; otherwise, cancer is inevitable. The casing is done to reduce radiation in smartphones, and it is done using the materials mentioned. Another possible disadvantage (though it is not common) is that terrorists may use the Strontium-90 to develop dirty bombs even though the substance is very expensive. Radiation protection principles presume that any radiation dose, no matter how small it might seem to be, can harm a person.

Nuclear batteries are lighter than other ones, however, they can provide energy for smartphones, and they are much smaller in size as well as more efficient as other batteries. Nuclear batteries also have sufficient energy density. The radioisotope that is an example of nuclear energy can supply energy density that is approximately six orders of magnitude more than the batteries manufactured using chemical substances.

Betavoltaic chipsets that are also nuclear batteries are commercially available and are of high demand due to low voltage. They are also amp products for the niche markets such as the military. Betavoltaic batteries generate power from beta radiations rather than photons. These beta radiations are high power electrons emitted by radioactive elements. Several commercial uses of nuclear technologies exist today, for example, fire control detectors and emergency exits in many buildings.

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Lithium-ion batteries have an aging problem, which becomes evident one year after the purchase and the manufacturers always go silent about this. It always happens whether the battery is in use or kept idle. Another disadvantage of lithium-ion batteries is that they are regarded as not completely mature since the chemicals and metals vary on a continuous basis. They need a protection circuit to preserve the voltage as well as the current within some safe limits . Natural Li is converted into isotopic clear 6Li. The merits of performing this task are the fact that thermal neutron combination of the cross-section is multiple of magnitude order larger than the natural Li cross-section implying that researchers can evaluate factual manufacturing methods and techniques.

Functional requirements

Terms such as atomic battery, nuclear battery and radioisotope and tritium generator are employed to depict devices that use energy produced from decaying of the radioactive isotope to generate electricity. Conversion method is divided into thermal and non-thermal one. Thermal converters consist of the thermionic and thermoelectric kinds of generators. Their output energy is always a function of a temperature difference. Non-thermal converter’s output of power is not a function of a temperature difference. It extracts a portion of power as it is degraded into the heat energy instead of using the thermal power to run electrons in the circle. Atomic batteries in most cases have an efficiency of between 0.1 to 5%. High efficiency beta voltaics have an efficiency of 6-8%.

Thermal converters are classified into a thermionic converter that includes a hot electrode that emits electrons in a thermionic manner over a potential power barrier to a relatively cool form of an electrode and produce valuable electric energy output. Cesium vapor is employed to highly optimize electrode task function as well as present an ion supply to make sure the electron space charge has been neutralized.

Beta voltaic is a battery that generates energy from radiation and scientists have studied the battery since 1950 and regard it as a major source of nuclear energy. Day to day research is being pursued on nuclear batteries in various research institutions. Much of this task is centered on making the frontiers of these nuclear device technologies by using energy sources with the help of beta or alpha particle decay, which is based on the radioactive isotope emitted. The area of the beta voltaic, which is the most tackled by the researchers, is tritium. This is a hydrogen isotope that has a pair of neutrons and a single proton as well as electron inherent in its hydrogen form.

It is a radioactive isotope with a half-life of 12.32 years during which it emits beta particle that is basically an electron. This makes it more preferred over other known solutions that emit dangerous gamma radiations . There are several other advantages of tritium like its weight; it is arguably the third lightest among the existing isotopes. It also has properties and reactivity similar to those of hydrogen. Researchers are well conversant with its production path, and they are also quite aware of its hazards. A specimen of Highly-Oriented Pyrolytic Graphite (HOPG) that is intercalated with some lithium so as to check loading before irradiation occurs.

Nuclear energy sources when controlled aren’t inherently dangerous. These nuclear batteries employ radioactive isotopes referred to as strontium-90. The latter improves the electrochemical power in water-based solutions. An electrode consisting of nanostructured titanium dioxide and a coating made of platinum is responsible for converting the energy or the power into electrons .
The water operates as a buffer. Surface Plasmon developed in the device emerges as a useful component since it improves the battery’s efficiency. The Ionic solution, however, cannot be easily frozen at minimal temperatures. It could efficiently perform in a variety of applications, for instance, car batteries.

Constructing a betavoltaic device, a silicon material inside two electrodes is wedged. By the time the radiation strikes the semiconductor there is a production of electrons flow, simply referred to as voltage electricity. Unfortunately, ancient materials were less suitable for enormous stacked arrays since the volume and the mass of the battery being developed would be large. Thinner and relatively lighter collectors and emitters were required for designing an array. Of late, developments in graphene are still to be correctly integrated into the architecture of this betavoltaic. When correct integration into these thin stacked kinds of betavoltaic arrays is completed, a wider utilization and efficient performance would be experienced. It is possible that betavoltaic energy can generate more power as compared to chemical batteries.

The anticipated maximum efficiency of promethium and tritium batteries is 21% and 12% respectively. Factors leading to these efficiencies are the source construction and the secondary electron discharge as well as backscattering mainly from the collector. Experimentally, it was demonstrated that the efficiency of the tritium direct charge battery model with vacuum dielectrics and collectors with secondary electron emission suppression and backscattering coating reached 5.5%. This kind of battery has an activity of curies of approximately 108. The experiment also demonstrated a voltage of 5300 volts with short circuit current of 148 nanoamperes. However, the efficiency can be doubled with a double-sided source. A promethium-147 nuclear battery has an activity of above 2.6 curies. The experiment shows it generates a voltage of 60kv. The current for the short circuit is 6.0 nano-amperes reaching an efficiency of 15%. The effect of charge accumulation in dielectrics under mono-energetic electron beam irradiation was used for developing nuclear batteries. In this battery, the charge accumulated on the surface conducts electric current through an uncharged dielectric. A nuclear battery was fabricated and tested with a tritium source; taking into consideration that a dielectric layer is wider than the range of tritium beta elements and a metal collector is without a vacuum space, this model generated 0.4 microwatts of electricity.

Natural radioactivity emits radiation that generates energy. Nuclear batteries also known as atomic batteries harness the energy. The power density of the final product and the application domains depend on a material employed to generate that energy. On the other hand, the output and the potential efficiency of the battery depend on the form of conversion employed.

Thermal converter, that is a radioisotope generator, utilizes the thermal energy produced by radioisotope decay to generate electricity. Methods used for this process include thermocouple heating, a recognized charge accumulation effect found in the dielectrics.

The nuclear batteries developed at the Missouri University consist of a platinum-coated titanium dioxide electrode that was with. Water was also incorporated in addition to radioactive strontium-90. Sr-90 can decay radioactively with 28.79 years half-life. It generates an electron referred to as beta radiation; it also produces anti-neutrino as well as the isotope yttrium-90. This Y-90 has a half-life of 65 hours. This causes decay of additional electrons and anti-neutrinos. Stable Zirconium is also generated as a result of the decay. The wisest aspect of employing Sr-90 as a source of energy is the fact that it emits less or zero gamma radiations. Nuclear batteries are safe to handle and also very easy to use. Apart from being used in smartphones they are used extensively in health departments, for example, for cancer radiotherapy .

Design concept

Safety of radioactive substance is ensured by introducing an aluminum material between a human body part and the source of the rays. Thus, the safety of betavoltaic is checked in this way to avoid damage to people. One of the greatest advantages of nuclear batteries in smartphones is the fact that recharging will not be done as in the case with chemical batteries. As mentioned above, nuclear batteries with efficient packaging possess an energy density that is greater than in chemical ones. Additionally, the radioactive isotopes used to develop nuclear batteries are easily available at affordable market prices.

Nuclear cells have a life span not less than ten years. This is an overwhelming term as they supply energy to equipment non-stop. Thus, the reliability and the longevity incorporated together may suffice a minor power needs for a decade. However, radiation safety standards need to be met. Incorporation of safety measures to ensure nuclear batteries are safe to handle.

Devices, like smartphones batteries emit nuclear radiation that includes beta and gamma ray beams. This radiation is however kept in closed packages. Individuals worry that tritium in these batteries may diffuse due to the small size of the package and its mobility. They fear that it could diffuse through graphitic matrix, due to the complicated process of covering it . The worry for this is counterattacked by the fact that it is experimentally proven that the radiation would remain in the matrix as long as the temperatures remain below 627 degrees Celsius. The operating environment temperature that people live in is far much below this limit. The remaining challenge is the moisture. Nevertheless, the scientists are making use of a robust, hermetically fastened package.

In less than three years to come, research companies, if funded adequately, will produce nuclear powered devices for general market. On this time framework, though, the researchers argue that it would depend on the regulatory framework.

The addition of water was arguably the breakthrough of these batteries since that water can absorb a great amount of beta radiation since when in large quantities it can detriment to a betavoltaic semiconductor. However, beta radiation rips apart the molecules of water, generating free radicals as well as electricity.

Comparative study with previous concept

The cost of developing these nuclear batteries is relatively high. As for the case of most innovations, the starting cost is rather huge. However, as the innovation goes operational, these drawbacks varnish as the product is produced in bulk. Nuclear batteries for some specific applications like the size of laptop batteries may lead to some problems though it can be eliminated as time progresses; for instance the Xcel in laptop’s batteries is much more compared to the conventional one.

Prospective commercial application of nuclear batteries in smartphones

The aerospace firms would welcome smartphones recharging themselves. Oil and the gas companies are also potential commercial markets for the nuclear batteries due to their recharging factor. All these companies require some reliable energy sources in physical extremes for instant low temperatures and low pressure . The betavoltaic battery integrated into a flight data detector may signal to the searching squad for years rather than months. The odds of coming up with a commercially viable substance are reasonably perfect since the ultra-thin kind of collectors exists anyway. There is a growing global interest in the development of these thin beta-electron kinds of emitters.


Nuclear batteries are used widely due to their long life capability and high efficiency. This sort of innovation will undoubtedly change the current technology for the better and eliminate the power limitations brought about by chemical cells. In space applications, nuclear energy units are more significant as compared to the solar cells and the ordinary chemical batteries. Solar cells are easily destroyed when passing through radiation areas.

The second reason is that the operations on planets such as Mars and the moon, where long phases of darkness need heavy batteries to provide power. Solar cells can only get energy from the sun. The third is that the missions conducted in space in an opaque atmosphere for instant on Jupiter. There is no light there, thus solar cell are useless there. The nuclear source of power would be useful in space.

Nuclear batteries would also eliminate the necessity of heating electronics in areas where temperatures are -245 degrees Celsius, for instance in space. These incredible advantages would ensure the nuclear batteries will easily replace current chemical sources of power. All applications including the phones that require large powers and a high lifetime and not forgetting a definite design over density will automatically prefer the nuclear source.

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The other application is the use of these batteries in mobile devices. A nuclear-powered battery for a laptop or a phone can provide supply approximate 8,000 times the life of the ordinary laptop or phone battery. Nuclear brings about forgetting the tedious process of recharging and replacing batteries. A nuclear battery through research has been found that it can endure a minimum of five years. The Xcel-N has never been switched off since it started its operation. It has been working for eight months in a row, without using any external energy supply.
Low energy electronics are ending up being versatile. Therefore, these kinds of batteries are nowadays becoming commercially relevant. They act as power sources for machinery that ought to function unattended for a long time, like satellites. Also, if it packed correctly, it can be applied to spaceship and pacemakers. These batteries can provide energy to a variety of objects from the tiny sensors to enormous systems.

The plans of these nuclear batteries

A proof-of-principle form of analysis starts with an emitter. Irradiation of the high-energy grapheme-based kind of beta emitters is necessary. When this is fully optimized, then invention and development of nuclear powered cells is quite possible. The key hurdles are experienced in the transportation of these devices and their handling. It is advisable to collaborate with Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) in developing the geometry, and in field-testing of these devices .

Feasibility assessment

The above-mentioned researches concerning the nuclear batteries present adequate hope in the supply of power and energy in future for devices and applications. Upon implementation of these technologies, feasibilities and credibility of devices such as smartphones will be elevated. This calls for keen observation of all standards while producing nuclear batteries so as to avoid the leakage of radioactive substances. Economic feasibility will be dictated by advantages and its applications. With a variety of features being added to these researchers, nuclear batteries will undoubtedly be one of the greatest inventions made in human history.

Dose calculator

Since we live in a radioactive universe where radiation is a part of the natural environment, it’s essential to measure the radiation dose. The unit used to measure is known as the millirem
(mrem). The regarded annual dose in every person should be around 350mrems, whether it comes from a natural or a man-made source. It is nor desirable for any individual to receive more than that dose annually. Absorbed dose refers to a quantity of radiation experienced by a person in the body. The absorbed dose units are (rad) and gray (Gy). Dose equivalent adds together the radiation quantity that is absorbed with the medical effects of that radiation type. For the beta and the gamma rays found in smartphones have the same dose equivalent as the absorbed dose. The dose equivalent for these rays is much higher than those of the neutron and the alpha. This is because these types are more harmful to human body. The dose equivalent units are the roentgen man (rem) and the sievert (Sv). The biological equivalent of the dose is estimated in 1/1000th of a rem, which is known as millirem.

For practical purpose, 1R (exposure) = 1rad (absorbed dose) = 1 rem or 1000mrem (dose equivalent). A measure presented as Ci shows substance’s radioactivity. A measure in rem or mrem indicates the energy amount that is deposited in living tissues by a radioactive substance.

Nuclear energy source will replace conventional cells as well as the adaptors; hence, the future will be full of exciting innovations with new ways of powering the portable devices. Although automobiles are in the first phase of their development, it is a clear indication of how nuclear energy is being employed. It is highly promising that the nuclear cells will definitely find a niche in automobiles and issues like running out of fuel or the battery life will come to an end. Though they pose a negative effect, the advantages brought about by nuclear batteries outweigh the disadvantages. The good thing is that these demerits are controllable. In future, the world of science will continue to use electric power from indispensable radioisotope. The scientific world argues that small devices ought to use small batteries to supply them with power. The urge for extra power arises as technology improves.

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