Research funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory has come up with a breakthrough battery: a betavoltaic power cell that lasts for 30 years without a recharge. Made from radioactive material (I am writing this from my underground bunker) the batteries end their life being completely inert and non-toxic, so they're not as scary-bad as they sound. Here's how it works:
AU: Word is out and about that this is nonsense science, so read on for what is being shot down as wishful thinking. Hopefully the researchers shoot back with a great 'screw you' demonstration of the technology real soon, ushering in a new dawn of portable power sources.
Made from semiconductor materials, the betavoltaic battery uses radioisotopes as its energy source. The beta particles that come from the decaying radioactive material are transformed into electric power that can power devices, such as a laptop, for up to three decades. Before you all run for the tinfoil, the batteries don't use fission or fusion, nor are there any chemical processes to produce energy, which means no radioactive or hazardous waste.
Similar to a solar cell, the process uses the beta electron emissions that occur when a neutron decays into a proton and causes a forward bias in the semiconductor. Yes, I'm clueless about that too, but the bottom line is that an electrical current is created —when electrons are scattered from their normal orbits in the semiconductor and into the circuit—so you can feed your laptop and other friends.
Small and thin, the batteries use a porous silicon material to collect the hydrogen isotope tritium that is generated in the process. And as it's a non-thermal reaction, your laptop will stay cooler than if its juice came from traditional lithium-ion batteries.
The plan is, if all goes well, to have these batteries, an eco warrior's wet dream due to their non-toxicity, on sale in two or three years. We hope it works out because we can't wait to have every electronic gadget we have running forever without any bloody chargers and cable spaghetti balls around. [Next Energy News]