Nuclear battery: Chinese firm aiming for mass market production

16 January 2024

Beijing Betavolt New Energy Technology Company Ltd claims to have developed a miniature atomic energy battery that can generate electricity stably and autonomously for 50 years without the need for charging or maintenance. It said the battery is currently in the pilot stage and will be put into mass production on the market.

The BV100 battery (Image: Betavolt)

Atomic energy batteries - also known as nuclear batteries or radioisotope batteries - work on the principle of utilising the energy released by the decay of nuclear isotopes and converting it into electrical energy through semiconductor converters.

Betavolt, which was established in April 2021, says its battery "combines nickel-63 nuclear isotope decay technology and China's first diamond semiconductor (4th generation semiconductor) module to successfully realise the miniaturisation of atomic energy batteries".

The company's team of scientists developed a unique single-crystal diamond semiconductor that is just 10 microns thick, placing a 2-micron-thick nickel-63 sheet between two diamond semiconductor converters. The decay energy of the radioactive source is converted into an electrical current, forming an independent unit. Betavolt said its nuclear batteries are modular and can be composed of dozens or hundreds of independent unit modules and can be used in series and parallel, so battery products of different sizes and capacities can be manufactured.

The composition of a nuclear battery (Image: Betavolt)

Betavolt says its batteries can meet the needs of long-lasting power supply in multiple scenarios such as aerospace, AI equipment, medical equipment, micro-electromechanical systems, advanced sensors, small drones and micro-robots. "If policies allow, atomic energy batteries can allow a mobile phone to never be charged, and drones that can only fly for 15 minutes can fly continuously," it said.

The first battery that the company plans to launch is the BV100, which it claims will be the world's first nuclear battery to be mass-produced. Measuring 15mm by 15mm and 5 mm thick, the battery can generate 100 microwatts, with a voltage of 3V. The company plans to launch a 1-watt battery in 2025.

Betavolt says its atomic energy battery is "absolutely safe, has no external radiation, and is suitable for use in medical devices such as pacemakers, artificial hearts, and cochleas in the human body". It adds: "Atomic energy batteries are environmentally friendly. After the decay period, the nickel-63 isotope as the radioactive source turns into a stable isotope of copper, which is non-radioactive and does not pose any threat or pollution to the environment."

The company plans to continue research on using isotopes such as strontium-90, promethium-147 and deuterium to develop atomic energy batteries with higher power and a service life of 2-30 years.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News