back to article Russian battery ambitions see a 10x increase in power from smaller, denser nukes

Russian boffins at the Moscow Institute of Physics (MIPT) have emitted a prototype nuclear battery packing 3,300 milliwatt hours of energy per gram. The paper, published in Diamond and Related Materials, describes a betavoltaic battery powered by the beta decay of the nickel-63 isotope giving 10 times the power of conventional …

  1. Lee D

    "With a power density per cubic centimetre of 10 microwatts"

    "have emitted a prototype nuclear battery packing 3,300 milliwatt hours of energy per gram"

    Hold on a mo. Something's not right. Either that's a fecking huge battery or it literally generates an absolute damn pittance of electricity that you could probably get from heat-capture of a human body / capturing stray Wifi.

    Is 10 microwatts really all that useful?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Probably is rather useful for something like, say, a pacemaker...

      Or anything where you value consistent long term power... You'll not be recharging this battery...

    2. }{amis}{
      Mushroom

      Usefull?

      That's 10 microwatts continually out of a sugar cube for a century, with these kinds of stats you can do really knarly stuff like cast sensors into the concrete of bridges.

      The continuous power is more than enough to send out a data-burst every x mins once a cap has charged up enough to run the RF.

      You can easily find pre-built IOT SOC solutions that will work very happily in that kind of power envelope.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Usefull?

        Out of one gram: 3.3Wh = 3.3*3600 = 11880J

        11880J over 100 years = 11800/(100*365.24*86400) = 3.7 µW

        1. annodomini2

          Re: Usefull?

          It's non-linear due to the half life.

  2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Sounds expensive

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      relative to what?

      Even if it's £1000, it's still cheaper than surgery and all the associated costs from that.

      As for space, several thousand is bugger all in overall costings.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Sounds expensive

      Really? A battery with 50 years of continuous output? Or 2000 years for C14.

      I dare you to find ANYTHING which will deliver that power output over the same amount of time.

      By the way, medical tech and spacecraft are not the only obvious application. Black box locator transmitters come to mind. Something which will transmit once in a few minutes an ultrasonic ping does not need a lot of power, but needs it continuously until it is found. Using these means no more 4 week rush until the battery runs out the way it had to be done (and failed in either case) for MH370 or AF447.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Err, no. A pinger which generates microwatts of output from the sea bed is not very useful.

        To generate even 1W of power would require 300kg of this stuff.

        1. Remy Redert

          But we don't need a continuous signal. A pulse every couple of minutes would be more than enough to find the black box (eventually). And that would be quite doable with these batteries. And they would keep going for decades after a crash, so the odds of recovery are much greater.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            RE:A pulse every couple of minutes

            with the possibility of syncing the black box with an external clock, the pulse could be quite narrow and infrequent, since anyone looking for it will have also synced up with the master clock.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Sure: a 1W pulse for 0.1s every 100 seconds would be an average of 1mW.

            But do you really think that a 1W x 0.1s sonar pulse can be detected through 4km of water, given the amount of ambient noise? If it could, a pinger with a PP3 battery would do the job just as well. (9V, typ. 600mAh = capacity 5.4Wh; drawing 1mW it would last 8 months)

            Let's work the other way. Current pingers run for 30 days. Let's say they have a Lithium-Metal battery (see here) with energy density 1.8MJ/kg. Let's also assume the plane designers allowed 1kg for the weight of the battery.

            This would imply an average power output of 1800000 / (30*86400) = 0.7W. One presumes that if they could make the pinger work with significantly less power then they would have already done so, because that would either make it work longer or use less weight.

            To get the equivalent 0.7W of output from the nuclear cell, with output 3.7µW/gram, it would weigh 190kg (but would last a hundred years or more).

            Now, the key point here is that the immediate energy output per kg is 190 times less. If the system designers had wanted 60 or 90 days of pinger output, they could just double or triple the size of the conventional batteries, and still be way better than the nuclear option.

      2. JeffyPoooh
        Pint

        VRH was rightly concerned about...

        VRH, in reference to Underwater Locator / Acoustic Beacons, "...no more 4 week rush until the battery runs..."

        That's already been sorted. The ULB/UAB Requirements boffins crossed-out "30 days" and wrote in "90-days". It was the simplest thing on Earth; the change only took them a few minutes. ;-)

        They're also adding newer 8.8 kHz UABs to supplement the traditional ultrasonic 37.5 kHz ones.

        Still, endless lifespan would be even better. But such low power would cause the once-a-minute PINGS to be much less frequent. And less frequent PINGS means that the effective range and search speed must be considered while steaming around searching. So it can get just a little complicated (not really).

        1. VikiAi

          Re: VRH was rightly concerned about...

          Also, in something like an avionic black box, you don't have the space-constraints of a surgical implant or weight restraints of a space-lift, so using, say, an 16 cubic inch battery (volume of 4 D-cells) for 120x the power, wouldn't be an issue at all.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Other pacemaker solution...

      Magnetic winding or Induction charging? As I'd not want it running out if I was bedridden!

      1. defiler

        Re: Other pacemaker solution...

        I'd not want it running out if I was bedridden!

        Sleep in a watch winder - easy.

        Bloody hell - I have to solve everything...

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Other pacemaker solution...

      Self winding pacemaker. 6uW

      Photovoltaics, that's the answer.

      Er …

      1. Unicornpiss
        Coat

        Re: Other pacemaker solution...

        Well, they do call it your "ticker"..

  4. petef

    Specific Energy

    3300 mWh/g is about 12 MJ/kg, the units chosen on Wikipedia. That is ~20x better than an alkaline cell though a quarter of that of petrol.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density

    1. }{amis}{
      Mushroom

      Re: Specific Energy

      "a quarter of that of petrol"

      No its, not your missing the mass of the engine the nuclear battery is a complete system it's more like :

      XKCD 1162: Log Scale

      1. petef

        Re: Specific Energy

        A fair point but the mass of an engine can be amortised against a large fuel tank if we are talking about many years of operation.

        BTW I upvoted you and would have given an extra if I could for the obligatory XKCD reference.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: Specific Energy

        This by the way demonstrates why nuclear waste storage is really a non-issue if considered rationally. Sure, you have to store it for a long, long time, but there is actually very little volume to store, relative to the energy you have got out of the fuel. Compare that to the coal plants that continuously spew lots of evil stuff into the atmosphere. We have just got used to that.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Specific Energy

          Coal plant ash contains significant quantities of uranium and thorium (and other heavy metals), which are naturally present in coal.

          https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Specific Energy

            "https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/"

            There's actually enough thorium in coal ash to justify mining it for nuclear fuel if we had a thorium nuclear economy.

            The best way to deal with a toxic waste disposal problem is to make the waste someone's else's valuable resource. Molten salt reactors would take care of 2 such problems in one go (coal ash lakes and conventional nuclear waste)

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Specific Energy

          "there is actually very little volume to store, relative to the energy you have got out of the fuel."

          Yup.

          The nuclear waste produced in a 800MW old-style nuclear reactor (like Fukushima or TMI) over its 60 year lifespan is about enough to fill an olympic swimming pool. Molten salt reactors promise to reduce that by at least 99%, as well as achieving somwehere between 87 and 98% reduction in waste on the input side(*)

          And contrary to the hype, used fuel rods are safe to handle in 350-400 years, not 20,000+. That which burns twice as hot burns half as long. At 350 years what you have left is almost entirely plutonium and U238, which can be reprocessed to make new reactor fuel. Anytime before that point the rods could be dissolved in the melt pool of a molten salt reactor and used as supplementary fuel(*) using U238->Pu238 transmutation.

          (*) 87% is the amount of raw uranium thrown away when enriching from natural to 3% reactor fuel. Higher concentrations end up throwing out more input material. That U238 is an essential part of hydrogen bombs (the casings are made of it) as well as bulllets, so the US military doesn't want to give up making it, even when the raw uranium is as expensive as gold(***)

          (**) The big problem with molten salt reactors is that the fuel is liquid when in use. This means you can't perform vendor lock-in (GE reactors can only take GE fuel rods, etc) and for the last 60 years the real profit in selling a nuclear power plant has come from selling replacement fuel. rods.

          (***) Thorium is less than 1/10 the price of uranium, doesn't require enrichement and is readily available all over the world - it's the waste part of rare earth mines that's problematic because of its very slight radioactivity so finding a use for it would solve a number of disposal problems.

    2. aks

      Re: Specific Energy

      Petrol is not a complete energy source.

      Don't forget the oxygen.

  5. MatsSvensson

    GO!

    What could go wrong?

  6. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Trollface

    So...

    Mister Fusion may turn out to be Comrade Fusion....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Between this and graphene

    Our battery future looks charged and ready to go!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the weather is not very nice either

    All well and good but they have a dictator/gangster and his cronies in charge. All the educated classes are leaving for somewhere safe as documented in the tedious response to the other story about turkey.Oh wait...

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: And the weather is not very nice either

      All the educated classes are leaving for somewhere safe

      And where is that somewhere safe?

      To a country which is making a point that all immigrants are bad and has its current policy formulated based on an election or referendum fought and won from the position of rabid xenophobia? Or one that does not. Oops... sorry... the latter does not presently exist. The lunatics are running the asylum nearly everywhere.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: And the weather is not very nice either

        The lunatics are running the asylum nearly everywhere.

        Come Inside

        (Bert Hansel?)

        I was outside a lunatic asylum one day, busy picking up stones

        When along came a lunatic and said to me, "Good morning Mr. Jones,

        Oh, how much a week do you get for doing that", "Thirty bob I cried"

        "What, thirty bob a week, with a wife and kids to keep?

        Come inside you silly bugger come inside"

        "Come inside you silly bugger come inside, you ought to have a bit more sense.

        Working for your living, take my tip, act a little screwy and become a lunatic.

        Oh you get your meals most regular and a brand new suit besides.

        What's thirty bob a week with a wife and kids to keep.

        Come inside you silly bugger come inside."

      2. Martin Budden

        Re: And the weather is not very nice either

        "the latter does not presently exist"

        Maybe try Canada or New Zealand?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: And the weather is not very nice either

          New Zealand specialises in quite nasty weather (all that greenery should be a hint) and the locals may love tourist money but they resent furriners of most types - particularly rich ones - and aren't afraid of saying so.

          1. Clunking Fist

            Re: And the weather is not very nice either

            " resent furriners of most types"

            Simples: pretend to like rugby and you'll get by just swell. (For extra credits, don't wear soccer shirts.)

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: And the weather is not very nice either

      Are we talking about Russia or Bristol?

  9. JimmyPage
    Happy

    As predicted (again)

    I am guaranteeing that Apple and Google will be wetting their collective knickers at this news (if indeed they haven't bunged a few quid into the research to start with).

    Not a massive power source. But as a few commentards have noted, it could be used to power up a capacitor to act as a reserve/impulse battery ?

    Of course, for the tinfoil hatters, for the 5-Eyes there is now the tantalising possibility of a lifetime tracking device in your mobe.

    I love nuclear power. I really do. Especially as it scares people who can't be bothered to learn teh physics of it.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: As predicted (again)

      "Of course, for the tinfoil hatters, for the 5-Eyes there is now the tantalising possibility of a lifetime tracking device in your neck."

      FTFY

      Such a thing would be a boon for the TinLady as it would solve at minimum the problem of verifying ID and age for all sort of things. And it wouldn't be an ID card.

      1. defiler

        Re: As predicted (again)

        verifying ID and age

        Presumably you'd use the half-life of the fissile source to verify the age of the neck in question?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Re: As predicted (again)

      Nope. A 50-2000 year battery does not need an upgrade every 2 years. ;)

  10. A 15
    Boffin

    more maths

    So if its total energy capacity (at infinity) is 3.3Wh then its initial energy output would be 2.6 µW.

    based on 100.1 year half life.

    If its initial energy output is 10µW then its lifetime energy output will be 12.7Wh

    -P_0 * t_half/ln(0.5) = E_life

    where P_0 is power output in Watts at start, t_half is the half life in seconds and E_life is the lifetime energy output in Joules.

    Of course reading the paper would just be cheating :o).

    Any way, looks like they are doing this somewhere in between, and there is a bit more to it.

  11. Zmodem

    silicon crystal graphite batteries are the future https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uItJj8PeU0

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is this a joke?

      Really, is it a joke?

      1. Zmodem

        Re: Is this a joke?

        no, its voodoo, there are plenty of videos on youtube and plenty on google search

        the video is probably the most finished product, outside of garden sheds

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is this a joke?

          When the suggested next story is "Is incoming Nibiru why governments are covertly building underground cities?" you know it's a news site with an almost slavish devotion to the truth.

  12. ' DROP TABLE CommentTards;

    My radiator is leaking, what should I do?

    Run like fuuuuck

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