Among the headlines produced by the Chinese automotive industry regarding electrification, there was also a rather unusual to unheard of innovation as a Chinese startup with a lifespan of just two years, called Betavolt, announced significant developments regarding a new type of battery it is developing for commercial use based on nuclear energy.
Betavolt calls the kind it’s developing an “atomic energy battery,” and according to its recommendations, it can produce power for about 50 years without needing any kind of charging. As he clarifies, it is not intended for use in electric vehicles, at least initially, but early recommendations look promising, at least on paper. According to these radioisotope batteries, they collect the energy resulting from the decay of radioisotopes. The nuclear energy is then converted into electricity with the help of converters.
To make electricity production possible, Betavolt scientists used electrons emitted by a radioactive material called nickel-63. They then developed a diamond semiconductor as small as 10 microns, or 1/5 of a human hair, by sandwiching a “layer” of nickel-63 between two matching semiconductors in order to generate electricity.
The final product is called the BV100 and it aspires to be the world’s first nuclear battery. In terms of its capabilities, it will produce 100 microwatts with a voltage of three volts while being smaller than a coin. This means that just such a unit can produce 8.64 joules of energy per day or 3,153 joules per year. Betavolt plans to develop a larger battery that will produce 1 watt of power.
It should be noted that in relation to lithium-ion batteries, this particular battery shows ten times greater efficiency, while theoretically a unit of one gram can store 3,300 MWh of energy while it does not need any kind of charging as it is based on the decay of radioisotopes.
According to the recommendations, the battery has been manufactured with a housing that can withstand explosions or shots while its operating range is placed between +120 and -60 degrees Celsius. In addition, radioactive materials, when they complete their life cycle, change into copper isotopes that do not require complex recycling processes and are environmentally friendly. As far as their use is concerned, Betavolt suggests from smartphones to drones for inexhaustible autonomy.
At the moment, their application in electromobility is not possible due to the small amount of energy they can produce, however, in the future there could be further development provided, of course, that regardless of use, the specific batteries will be able to meet the necessary safety conditions and there will be the appropriate legislation to allow the use of nuclear power in consumer products, which is rather unlikely or extremely long-term.