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Water-based nuclear battery can power cars, spacecrafts

18 Sep 2014

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Kwon: Controlled nuclear technologies are not inherently dangerous.

For the first time, researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a nuclear battery using a water-based solution. Long-lasting and more-efficient, the battery could be used as a reliable energy source in automobiles and in complicated applications such as space flight.

"Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s," said Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and nuclear engineering in the College of Engineering at MU. "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 battery uses a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 that boosts electrochemical energy in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode (the common element found in sunscreens and UV blockers) with a platinum coating collects and effectively converts energy into electrons.

"Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency," Kwon said. "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 research, "Plasmon-assisted radiolytic energy conversion in aqueous solutions," was conducted by Kwon's research group at MU, and was published in Nature.




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