One of the recurring dreams of modern man is certainly that of a drums which never downloads.
Let’s imagine a world where there is no longer a need to recharge one’s electronic devices, with the possibility of having wireless devices at hand but with unlimited autonomy (almost); an image that is certainly far from the current state of affairs but which, according to scientists, could materialize within a “few” years, thanks to brand new battery models that could hold a charge for years. Let’s find out what it is.
The Betavolt New Energy Technology project
Among the very first companies to reach this ambitious goal of drums that doesn’t download, there is Betavolt New Energy Technology based in Beijing.
The company has created a nuclear battery getting a duration of approximately 50 years, probably much longer than the average life of any commercial electronic device, but which could actually pave the way for much more interesting uses.
Let’s imagine, for example, in the medical field with a pacemaker whose battery never needs to be changed. Or any Electronic device to launch in space or to use in exploring the depth of the earthas a micro robot o one drone of very small dimensions ready to travel in total autonomy for decades.
Without going into too much detail, we can say that the functioning of this battery depends on a semiconductor al diamante capable of converting nuclear energy into electricity.
Nuclear batteries could have an average lifespan of around 50 years, an excellent compromise for use in the medical field
Powering this technology is there the isotope 63 of nickel (63Ni) which guarantees efficiency, adaptability (they do not emit radiation and can be used in a temperature range from -60 to 120 °C), safety (they are designed to avoid explosions and overheating) and, obviously, a certain duration which as already mentioned reaches around the age of 50.
Besides, we’re talking about a sustainable productwith the 63Ni isotope which once its life cycle ends is transformed into a stable copper isotope, thus eliminating the risk of radioactive waste that is difficult to recycle.
Furthermore, according to the first statements from the manufacturing company, the scholars have also worked on a disposal process more immediate and much more economically advantageous than disposing of a classic battery.
At the moment, Betavolt New Energy Technology is mainly working on a system for miniaturize the component and, if necessary, adapt it to various needs.
The next step is the efficiency of productionin an attempt to lower the cost of the product final and facilitate large-scale production and greater diffusion of this technology which, optimistically, could arrive on the market (even for civilian use) even in a reasonably short time.
The University of Bristol project
Another very interesting project comes fromUniversity of Bristol where researchers are working on some battery diamond-based betavoltaics able to transform nuclear waste into an energy source that can last thousands of years.
The operation of this technology is relatively simple, specific nuclear waste is taken, such as carbon-14 (which among other things emits radiation which they are not harmful to humans), and are used to produce electricity, through specific manufacturing processes.
The result of these processes is a battery capable of effectively dissipate heat ensuring the user also a certain degree of robustnesswhich makes these components potentially indestructible.
Transforming nuclear waste into batteries could help produce batteries that never or almost never run down, while producing a small amount of energy
In this sense, however, it is good to remember that these batteries are capable of generate a small amount of energy which, for now, is not sufficient for a smartphone, for example, or for any other electronic device.
Instead, they can be used for a whole range of low-power devices and sensorsguaranteeing truly important autonomy, also given reduced absorption.
The Northwestern University project
A team of researchers from Northwestern University is working on a device which can be placed in the ground and collected the energy produced by bacteria which destroy organic materials and can work as long as there is carbon in the soil.
This technology has existed for a very long time, and although it is not a real battery, it is capable of producing energy, exploiting the presence of those microorganisms which feed on substances in the soil.
In this sense, however, it is not a portable device, and moreover it produces with this system a low amount of energy, which at least for the moment greatly limits practical uses. Consider that at the moment scientists have managed, at most, to power the sensors to detect research data.
Producing energy from the ground could lead to cheap and sustainable batteries, even if they are not yet exactly efficient at the moment
Therefore, assuming that this technology may have a future, it could have very specific uses, such as in agriculturefor example, or within the stations for the collection of atmospheric data.
Moreover to function properlythere is a need for very particular conditions which must guarantee, for example, a low humidity of the soil and continuous presence of water e oxygen.
But the real point in favor of this technology is its “simplicity” with all the components necessary to carry out this project which, potentially, could also be purchased in any hardware store, effectively representing a very economical solution.