Betavolt: A diamond nuclear battery Lifetime of 50 years


China’s Betavolt New Energy Technology recently revealed an innovative modular nuclear battery. This device, known as the BV100, combines a radioactive isotope, nickel-63 (⁶³Ni), with a cutting-edge 4th-generation diamond semiconductor. Remarkably, it can power devices for up to 50 years.

Nuclear batteries are not a new concept; they have existed in various forms since the 1950s. Traditionally, Betavolt Battery, known as radio-thermal generators. Convert the heat from decaying radioactive elements into electricity using thermocouples or Stirling engines.

A novel approach was introduced in 2016. Involving the use of diamond layers infused with radioactive isotopes, initially with carbon-14 (¹⁴C). The selected isotopes emit Beta (β⁻) particles – high-energy electrons or positrons. These particles, when released, enable the diamond structure to function as a semiconductor, creating electricity.

The Betavolt Battery (BV100) features a unique design with two 10-micron thick single-crystal diamond semiconductor layers enclosing a 2-micron thick ⁶³Ni layer. These ‘sandwiches’ not only generate current individually but can also be stacked or connected. Similar to voltaic cells, to form multiple unit modules, thereby enhancing the current output.

Encased in a protective shell, the Betavolt Battery (BV100) is safeguarded against radiation and physical damage. It generates 100 microwatts at 3 volts and has compact dimensions of 15 x 15 x 5 mm. Betavolt predicts that such batteries could eventually power mobile phones without the need for recharging or sustain small drones in flight indefinitely.

Currently in pilot production, the Betavolt Battery(BV100) is slated for mass production, with plans for a more powerful one-watt version by 2025. Boasting an energy density ten times greater than lithium batteries, the BV100 is also safer, being non-combustible and explosion-resistant. Unlike conventional batteries, it generates electricity directly, bypassing issues related to recharging cycles. Over time, the ⁶³Ni decays into harmless, non-radioactive copper, minimizing environmental impact.

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