How do nuclear batteries work? The difference with power plants and atomic bombs

In China the prototype of one was produced drums which can last up to 50 years. If the project was successful, in the future it would be possible for example to never have to upload the mobile phone. Even i drones they could fly without ever unload. The battery developed by Beijing Betavolt New Energy Technologyor more simply Betavolt, is known as “drums nuclear”. But what are nuclear batteries and how they work from a scientific point of view? Today we find out how these batteries work and the difference principle physicist with the central nuclear and the bombs atomic.

This type of battery does not use the energy of atomic bombs or nuclear power plants. In nuclear power plants it is usually taken uranium and yes bomb to divide the nucleus. In atomic bombs ditto, same principle; the reaction however is not controlled and generates explosion.

Here, in nuclear batteries instead Not they happen reactions nuclearbut they exploit a completely different physical principle: the decay radioactive. So calling them “nuclear batteries” might be a bit misleading: it would be more correct and representative to call them “batteries to atomic energy“or better yet”batteries to radioisotopes“.

Now, the battery developed by Betavolt is a small parallelepiped with a base of 15mm x 15mm and a height of 5 mm. Inside there are several layers of different materials. Specifically, it consists of a layer of nickel-63 which comes into contact with two plates of a particular type of diamond (microcrystalline diamond). Nickel-63 is a particular type of nickel atom which however has a greater number of neutrons than the atoms found in nature. It is in fact produced in the laboratory by adding a neutron to natural nickel-62.

Nickel-63 has a particular characteristic: it decays radioactively. In practice, the nucleus of nickel-63 is unstable and “uncomfortable” with that extra neutron and wants to get rid of it. So the neutron we added transforms into a proton over time and in doing so releases a electron: these electrons will be exploited to produce energy.

In particular energy of the electrons released from the nickel-63 layer is converted into power electric by the two plates formed by the particular type of diamond.

Here, this is how nuclear batteries work: as we have understood, it is very different from that of nuclear power plants and atomic bombs.

Furthermore, exploit radioactive decay to produce energy Not It is new absolute, has already been used for decades in space missions. For example, the latest rovers of the NASA on Mars, like Perseverancethey use this technology.

But then why don’t batteries like this already exist? Because the generators used in space missions exploit the plutoniumwhich is much rarer and more expensive than nickel and is also a very difficult technology to miniaturize.