Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Hardware

'30 Year Laptop Battery' is Unscientific Myth 322

Posted by Zonk
from the be-nice-though-wouldn't-it dept.
An anonymous reader wrote to mention the wonderful news: "A research group funded by U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is developing a battery which can provide continuous power to your laptop for 30 years! Betavoltaic power cells are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source..." Except, not so much. ZDNet's Mixed Signals blog with Rupert Goodwins explains why (as always) if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: "The sort of atomic structures that generate power when bombarded with high energy electrons are the sort that tend to fall apart when bombarded with high energy electrons. While solar cells have the same problem, it's to a much lesser extent. There's a lot of research into making materials that don't suffer so much, but it remains a serious issue ... while it's true that a tritium-powered battery will eventually turn into an inert, safe lump of nothing much, and while it's also true that a modest amount of shielding will keep the radioactivity within the the battery the while, there's the small problem that if you break the battery during its life the nasties come out."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'30 Year Laptop Battery' is Unscientific Myth

Comments Filter:
  • I think.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by z0idberg (888892) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:23AM (#20821915)
    the nastiest came out and broke your grammar checker.
  • Laptop? (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Aethereal (1160051) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:23AM (#20821923)
    Yeah, my lap is exactly where I want to put something radioactive.
    • Re:Laptop? (Score:5, Informative)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:31AM (#20822007) Journal
      Meh. It's a beta emitter; beta radiation is completely harmless to humans as long as you have a nice layer of skin between you and it.

      However, when it gets into the body it is EXTREMELY harmful, so the worry is that people will break the batteries open and release toxic crap into the environment where it can be inhaled/ingested.
      • Re:Laptop? (Score:4, Funny)

        by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:35AM (#20822063) Journal
        > "Meh. It's a beta emitter; beta radiation is completely harmless to humans as long as you have a nice layer of skin between you and it.

        However, when it gets into the body it is EXTREMELY harmful, so the worry is that people will break the batteries open and release toxic crap into the environment where it can be inhaled/ingested.

        So if you thought laptop battery fires were dangerous before, these are a terrorist wet dream made to order ...

        • Re:Laptop? (Score:5, Informative)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:46AM (#20822235) Journal
          It's not significant really. The amount of tritium in this, even concentrated, is pretty low, and would make a really poor weapon...On the order of throwing florescent bulbs at someone to try to poison them with Mercury vapor. It also disperses pretty quickly, so the lasting effect is minimal in the area.

          Tritium is available in the environment already; it's a naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen, and it's half life is pretty low (~12 years).
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Wellspring (111524)
            Hi, I'm Troy McClure. You may remember me from such informational films as "Let's Get Ready for the Iridium Standard" and "Tritium: Delicious But Deadly!"
      • tritium is a weak beta emmitter and because hydrogen is so common you need a lot of it before a significant ammount of the hydrogen compounds in you body start to contain it.

        Generally the really nasty stuff from a biological point of view is the rare elements that the body concentrates.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
          Yea, I overstated the beta emitter case...Lot of beta emitters are commonly used in medical imaging, because they can be tracked and they don't stay in the body, so you're not getting a long term dosage.

          Tritium is commonly used in a lot of places. If your wristwatch glows in the dark, it's probably tritium.

      • yes that's true but suppose we synthesized polyethylene from a mix of tritium substituted ethylene and normal ethylene, it would produces heat as the tritium in the polymer decayed and at the same time act as its own shielding and containment. people that broke open the battery would need to go out of their way to ingest the material. it would be a fairly large chunk that you an't just "eat"
        • Shrug. I'm not against tritium batteries. Most of the studies I've seen on them have had the tritium encapsulated in a honeycomb-like matrix, to maximize storage, and energy generation.

          That would seem to make it a lot less likely that you'd have any significant amount of tritium released by accident, and breathing vapor off a burning battery is harmful regardless of whether its an atomic battery or just a metal laden lithium battery.
      • by Hatta (162192)
        Meh. It's a beta emitter; beta radiation is completely harmless to humans as long as you have a nice layer of skin between you and it.

        That's not true. Tritium is a weak beta emitter that is easily blocked by skin. Other beta emitters like [32]P are much stronger and can be dangerous.
        • Eh. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
          They can be dangerous, but the precautions recommended for working safely, even with high energy, low half-life beta emitters like Phosphorous-32, are usually things you'd do anyway. People are already really irrational about radiation; if you say "dangerous" they think, "Melt your face off/make you sterile" not "Wear gloves and goggles."

          Beta emitters (especially like [32]P) are bad news if consumed, but as long as there is something in between you and it, you're probably fine.
      • Well its clear that we should make these kinds of poisons readily available to the public through dell and bestbuy!
        • Yeah because the chemicals in other batteries are completely safe to ingest/crack open and rub on your skin. When will people stop with the sensationalist garbage!! Almost had me worried too until someone pointed out that this is the type of radiation that won't even penetrate/damage your skin..
      • The problem with that logic is that as beta radiation is stopped, the electrons ( beta particles ) emit bremsstrahlung, more commonly known as X-rays. Thus even if you can easily stop the beta radiation itself, the secondary X-rays could be an issue. This is not much of a problem for a small sample of beta-emitter, but if you have enough of it to power a laptop, then it starts becoming a concern.

        If you are going to generate large quantities of energy from radioactive decay, then ideally you want a sample wh
    • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:50AM (#20822285) Journal
      Don't be so afraid of radiation.

      A larger pool of mutants means more chance of a favorable adaptation, right?

      We can't be so selfish - think of the children.

      Everyone talks about evolution but nobody does anything about it.

  • I was able to tell this before reading the article.
  • by alexj33 (968322) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:25AM (#20821941)
    Mr. LaForge: We're trapped by the aliens!

    Wesley Crusher: Wait! We only need to realize that the sort of atomic structures that generate power when bombarded with high energy electrons are the sort that tend to fall apart when bombarded with high energy electrons.

    Mr. LaForge: That.... could.... destabilize the aliens death ray....!

    Wesley: Yeah, just like in the academy.

    Picard: Make it so.
    • by CRCulver (715279)
      But where does reversing the polarity of the electron beam come in?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by andphi (899406)
        Several hundred times a second.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ColdGrits (204506)
        "But where does reversing the polarity of the electron beam come in?"

        It doesn't.

        However, the 3rd Doctor was oft fond of "reversing the polarity of the neutron flow".
  • Target market (Score:2, Insightful)

    by omgamibig (977963)
    It might be too dangerous for the masses, but that sure doesn't scare the military. So what's the problem again?
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Even the most efficient nuclear sub won't run for anywhere near 30 years.
      • Sub != Laptop (Score:5, Informative)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:41AM (#20822161) Journal
        The power demands are wildly different between a fricking SUB and a fricking LAPTOP. The power generation is also far different; subs have active fission piles, they're literally mobile nuke reactors.

        Atomic batteries, on the other hand, are just storage for existing nuclear material. They generate electricity as part of the radioactive decay process, either by using the heat generated by the decay, or by harvesting the incident energy of the decay process.

        Types of radioisotope batteries (like RTG's [wikipedia.org]) have been used in the space program forever.
    • That it doesn't work.
  • Ok. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@ex[ ].us ['it0' in gap]> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:27AM (#20821965) Homepage

    ...while it's also true that a modest amount of shielding will keep the radioactivity within the the battery the while, there's the small problem that if you break the battery during its life the nasties come out."

    That's generally true anyway.

  • Well up until this point a battery had the potential to give you mere burns on your lap. Now it can help you with family planning! ... on a more serious note. Tritium is not a particularly dangerous thing to have leak. It finds the shortest route up and out of harms way anyway.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:29AM (#20821979)
    Anytime anyone promises a leap in technology with an order of magnitude of improvement, it's almost always BS. Think about it, the only two possible exceptions to this in the whole of the 20th century were the atomic/hydrogen bombs and possibly the internet. Con men always give themselves away by promising too much (You're not only going to make a profit by giving your money to me, you're going to make a 10000% return!).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by isa-kuruption (317695)
      Only the atomic bomb and the Internet? Wow, your history is really limited. The internet would have never come to be if it wasn't for this thing called the transistor. In fact, the transistor is probably the biggest invention in the 20th century changing everything about everything. Even other inventions before the invention of the transistor were significantly changed with the transistor, e.g. flight (lead to space flight), mass production (lead to automated, robot-based assembly lines), automobiles (c
    • Airplanes. Data transmission rates and electronics in general. Gold when compared to the dollar. Sensitivity of photographic film. All improved by at least 10X during the 20th century.
    • I'm afraid I have to disagree on the internet point. The 'net' evolved from a variety of systems already in place over a couple of decades on the short side. I would say that a better second choice for a leap in technology would be the transistor [wikipedia.org].
  • ...um.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by i_b_don (1049110) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:29AM (#20821991)
    I don't know about you ... but for ANYTHING radioactive that I'm going to be sticking on my lap I want more than a "modest" amount of shielding thank you very much.

    don
  • by rolfwind (528248)
    Crap, if there were such a thing as a 30 year battery, eletric cars would be no problem along with a lot of other applications that are more important than a notebook, though I would worry about the amount of energy in my lap.

    Also, if it had a 30 year charge already built in, I would have to wonder what they would have sold it for?!
    • Not quite true. There are 30-year batteries, and have been for a long time. Both betavoltaic and radioisotope thermoelectric generators fit this description. The problem is that, while they might produce a lot of energy, they don't generate much power. A small betavoltaic cell is going to give a power output on the order of milliwatts. RTGs tend to be higher power than betavoltaics, but since they use isotopes that decay more energetically they need a lot more shielding, which increases their size and
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:31AM (#20822013)
    Did an editor ACTUALLY CHECK on the facts of a story before posting?

    Cue the porcine aviators...
    • I thought I was the only one who noticed. Huzzah for actual editing!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      It's a tenth anniversary thing. The editors are showing is what Slashdot might have been. Tomorrow they'll post a story that is still recent enough to count as news. Next week it will be back to normal.
  • That means a 25 watt battery will get plenty warm.
    Very useful in cold weather. I imagine several of the climbers who died on Everest wouldn't have if they had one of these with them.

    Anyway, I don't think civilians will ever see these, but the military will find uses.
    • by tomhudson (43916)
      They'd have needed a lot more than "one of these". 25 watts of heat (75 BTU) at -50 in a 50mph wind? Pack thousands of them, and use them to block the wind or build a shelter, maybe ...
    • Actually I think most of the deaths on everest are related to falls and embolism, not hypothermia.
  • The Einstein rule (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:33AM (#20822041) Homepage Journal
    Anytime you see a reference to Einstein, or the e=mc^2 equation [nextenergynews.com], there's a good chance that the exciting new technology is bunk.

    . The reason the battery lasts so long is that neutron beta-decay into protons is the world's most concentrated source of electricity, truly demonstrating Einstein's theory E=MC2.
    Can we formalize this rule? It could be as important as Godwin's for understanding internet discourse.
    • by _14k4 (5085)
      As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a solution to the energy issues of the world, involving e=mc^2 or Einstein, approaches one.

      Unless, however, the author expounds on the solution with maximal use of LaTeX.
    • by fredrikj (629833) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:46AM (#20822245) Homepage
      Yes, let's call it lawpoop's law. That sounds really good.
    • So, according to the article (which I didn't read, naturally), if the amount of energy available from the battery decreases over time AND we can ensure the battery pack has a constant mass, as the battery ages, the square of the speed of light will DECREASE and so the battery will travel through time at a slower rate than the user.

      Conversely, as we charge the battery it will shoot forwards in time.

      Something's bound to assplode!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      I would say more generally, that any time someone references that equation, there's something wrong with the claim/argument they're making.

      Of course, it's not really true. Every once in a blue moon, it makes sense to actually cite that "E=mc^2". But it's so rare that the equation is actually applicable, and even when it is the equation itself is so rarely helpful. I mean, ok, you're talking about a nuclear reaction, but do we actually need to know the ratio of energy to mass? Are we going to be doing c

  • by ahfoo (223186) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:33AM (#20822043) Journal
    That in sending radioactive products into the marketplace you could assume consumers would then take responsibility to make sure the products were disposed of properly.
            That part was what really disgusted me when I saw that story yesterday. If the serious plastic waste problems in the oceans don't provide ample evidence that you can't control where products end up then there are hundreds of other examples including groundwater contamination in countries across the globe from selenium and other fun stuff that are essential in consumer electronics yet toxic when dispersed into the environment at the end of their useful lives which tend to be numbered in months rather than years with defective by design components like capacitors that have shelf lives like groceries.
            I googled it a bit and I read that the half life in these things was like twelve hundred years. Maybe I was missing the dot in there and it was only twelve years but even so that's far longer than the life of a consumer electronics device.
    • tritium isn't that bad really, sure people mention the radioactivity bogyman but it is a pretty weak beta emmitter and being such a common element organisms don't tend to concentrate it.

      i'd imagine a lot of the chemicals that end up in consumer products while not radioactive are considerablly more dangerous to living things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      I googled it a bit and I read that the half life in these things was like twelve hundred years.

      12.5 years not 1200. this isn't an unreasonable number when you consider people can use the battery long after the device it was originally in is in the local city dump. especially if there is a bit of a cost to them, which there likely is. if they do throw it away, the radiation will decrease by nearly 300 fold in less than 100 years. we can make containers good enough to survive at least that long in a dump

      • Granted that tritium isn't particularly bad, but things in dumps tend to get ground up and sometimes burned. Gasseous tritium will float away and not be too much of a problem, but tritium (in place of normal hydrogen) made into compounds will stay with the compound, at least until it decays. Thus, it's important that the materials or the containers be reasonably protected for a few decades.
    • by Verte (1053342) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:49AM (#20822265)
      On the other hand, the Lithium in your current battery will remain deadly forever.
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Think of it - Americium-241 (the radiation source in smoke detectors) has a half-life of 432.7 years. It gets tossed into the land fill after just a few years.

    • The half life of tritium, used in most betavoltaics, is around 9 years, not 1,200. Not sure where you got that figure from (I didn't Google, I looked it up in a book). If you have a problem with tritium being put in consumer products, I suggest you start complaining about glowing key fobs, which have used tritium for a while, or about smoke detectors.
  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:37AM (#20822113) Journal
    the article is correct that radiation destroys semiconductor efficiency although not all "nuclear battery" designs involve semiconductors. space probes sometimes use a chunk of radioactive material that has shielding around it while the energy released is in the form of heat. this heat [temperature gradient] is harnessed by a thermoelectric materal- basically it consists of several layers of different metals that produce a voltage potential in response to a temperature gradient. the advantage in this is that you can use metal as shielding and not relatively fragile semiconductor material. although you need a radioisotope that can generate enough heat from decay to be useful- tritium's half-life is about 12 years so it might qualify, although a better solution might be a solid unless they use T2O, ditritium monoxide, which is "superheavy water"
  • Think about it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Who would want a 30 year old lap top?
  • Those two have now been going for more than 30 years, but I don't want to put their batteries on my lap, or get millions of them in land fills around the world, leaching into the ground water.
    • It's Tritium (Score:3, Informative)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
      And it's already in your groundwater. Tritium is Hydrogen-3, and though it's not (obviously) the most common form of hydrogen in our environment, it does exist naturally. It doesn't bind to your body if you drink it, which makes it a lot better than a lot of crap that ends up in our water, and it has a short halflife, so assuming that the batteries manage to hold together for the supposed 30 years, the amount of radioactive material available to leak out into the environment will have already dropped by mor
  • The article (two links in) is so vague, it could be talking about anything. I suspect it could be some sort of work on a smaller, more efficient RTG, but who could tell beyond all the baseless day dreams?
  • A couple things... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:46AM (#20822243)
    When an old scientist says something is possible, he is probably right. When an old scientist says something is impossible he is probably wrong. (I'll let you ponder the seeming paradox, but you'd have to know some old scientists to really get it.)

    We already have "dirty" nuclear materials in the hands of consumers: some types of smoke detectors, lead paint detectors, x-ray machines, and some other things.

    If someone wanted to make a dirty bomb, a few thousand dollars worth of the right smoke detectors would do perfectly.

    • by KillerBob (217953)

      When an old scientist says something is possible, he is probably right. When an old scientist says something is impossible he is probably wrong. (I'll let you ponder the seeming paradox, but you'd have to know some old scientists to really get it.)

      Nah... Don't really need to know an old scientist to get it. Just have to have enough of a background in science. A High School education should be enough to realize that science changes over time, but the people practicing it don't always. So somebody who studied

  • by curmudgeous (710771) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:57AM (#20822383)
    Defense contractors are always coming up with wonderful sounding ideas that are completely impractical. For example, in 1999 a company called Stavatti presented the DoD a design for a portable laser rifle suitable for use by common infantry. The device was to be powered by...wait for it... polonium (PO-210). An excerpt from the proposal:

    "...To increase the energy level of the CO2 N2 He gas mixture, a Zirconium-Nickel fuel rod approximately 40cm long and 1.8 cm in diameter containing approximately 740 grams (78cc) of Polonium-210 (Po-210) is contained within, and located down the centerline of, the cylindrical gas reservoir. The Po-210 provides a thermal energy source of approximately 141 watts/gram through the emission of alpha particles via the process of nuclear decay. This energy source provides a significant power density while alleviating the shielding requirements and apparent health risks associated with gamma ray emitting radionuclides. The presence of the Po-210 in the reservoir chamber will result in the delivery of approximately 104.34 kW to the CO2 N2 He gas mixture, thereby raising the gas to a state of thermal equilibrium corresponding to an internal reservoir pressure of approximately 272.1 atm, temperature of 2173.16 K and gas density of 44 kg/m3..."

    You may recall that a few micrograms of PO-210 were used to kill that guy in London about a year ago, and this company has proposed putting .75 kg in a rifle that would be subject to damage, destruction and dispersal on the battlefield.

    The paper describing the laser rifle can be found here:

    http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:SEji6Jn6-4AJ:www.defensereview.com/352003/TIS1.pdf+pumped+polonium+laser+rifle&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us [209.85.165.104]
  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @10:29AM (#20822853) Journal
    It's impossible to make long-term power sources from radioisotopes? Uh oh, somebody better tell the CIA that their spy satellites are going to start falling out of the sky any day now.

    The article is actually better than the slashdot headline -- it gives reasons why nuclear laptop batteries seem to be commercially impractical (though I can imagine military applications), but doesn't call them an unscientific myth.
  • by timholman (71886) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @10:39AM (#20822983)
    The betavoltaic battery is nothing more than pseudoscience. It's higher quality pseudoscience than junk such as zero-point free energy generators or gravity wheel generators, but it is pseudoscience nonetheless. Every few years you see these sorts of claims about betavoltaic devices pop up again, then fade away.

    Despite years of claims, no one has ever come close to demonstrating a device with the sort of power densities claimed in the article. Furthermore, the biggest proponent of betavoltaic technology is Ruggero Santilli, an infamous pseudoscientist with a litany of nutty claims and bizarre theories of physics.

    If you look at the web pages of the companies that are involved in betavoltaics (e.g. betavoltaic.com or nuclearsolutions.com), you'll find that they have no physical facilities outside of a rented post office box or the home of one of the principals. None of them have any product to sell or even demo. I don't expect that will ever change.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @10:40AM (#20823005) Homepage
    ...a nuclear plant official explained at a stockholders' meeting in the eighties.

    They just needed to keep the waste in an onsite holding pool for a few years, and then the government would take over. He explained that the U. S. Government made a firm commitment (he may even have mentioned a contract) to accept the plant's waste starting in 1998, when the Yucca Flats facility would begin operating.

    So, what's the problem? All we need to do is make it easy for consumers to mail their dead radioactive batteries to the Yucca Flats facility.

    Oh, wait...

    (If he were still alive consumers could also mail them to Ronald Reagan, who stated at one point that if properly processed a year's worth of nuclear waste from a nuclear power plant could be stored under a desk...)
  • by AWeishaupt (917501) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @10:42AM (#20823035)
    Bremsstrahlung x-ray radiation is a problem working around high-energy beta emitting radioisotopes, such as Phosphorus-32, but not Tritium, which is a very low energy beta emitter. Betavoltaics are real, workable technology; not science fiction or junk science. Cardiac pacemakers using Plutonium-238 Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators are also a proven, decades old technology, too, for example. Tritium is an extremely low energy beta emitter. Given this, and the very short biological half-life of water in the body, it is one of the least harmful radioisotopes around. It occurs to a very small degree in nature, and is already used in radioluminescent watches, exit signs, gunsights, keyrings, compasses and such forth. The beta emission from Tritium is so low in energy that most radiation detection instruments will not detect it - only mixing the radioactive material with the scintillation cocktail in a liquid scintillation counter is sensitive enough to detect it. A gamma spectrometer, scintillation counter, geiger counter, ion chamber counter or detector won't even notice it.
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @11:12AM (#20823503)
    Beta emitter.... Hmmm, that's superbly amenable to mathematical analysis. You see each beta particle is an electron, and there's 6.2.. x 10^18 of them per second in an Ampere. So if you want a radioactive source that's putting out that many electrons per second, and one Curie, one gram of Radium, is 3.7 x 10^10 disintegrations per second. My advanced math, i.e. division, we need about 1.67 x 10^8 Curies of radioactivity. That's kinda a lot. There's only about HALF of that amount of radioactivity in all the nuclear waste tanks at Hanford.

    Kinda impractical to stuff your laptop with several million gallons of radioactive waste.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LemonYellow (244336)
      Sure, if the beta particles were captured and used as the current output of the battery, your calculations would be reasonable. If the beta particle has plenty of energy though, wouldn't it be able to dislodge more than one electron in whatever medium captured it? What's the mean free path through silicon of a beta particle somewhere in the middle of the energy spectrum for Radium's emissions?

      It might only take one hundredth of Hanford's waste...
      • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @12:26PM (#20824629)
        >wouldn't it be able to dislodge more than one electron in whatever medium captured it? Wow! Somebody that knows about secondary emission! That would be a great idea, trade off energy (voltage) for more electrons (current). Sorry to say though, IIRC the betas come off at about 300eV, so even if you put them through a 64x electron cascade, down to 5 volts, you'd still need 1/30th of Hanford to get an Amp.
  • by Frangible (881728) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:10PM (#20830021)
    Nuclear batteries have been around for a very, very long time. And they will certainly run for 30+ years continuously. More to the point, tritium is a weak beta emitter, and will degrade whatever material far less than traditional nuclear battery materials. Making the claim the materials would degrade before 30 years is simply incorrect, and there are numerous examples of nuclear batteries that have been in service that long. The nuclear material decays first. Period. (and given tritium's T1/2 you'd have to use a lot of extra tritium to make it viable after 30 years at a certain power output level)

    The author makes a point of stating "only 25 watts per kilo". Of course, a laptop draws about 10 watts with good power management. So the nuclear battery, according to his stats, would weigh less than a pound. (I suspect however, that a nuclear battery could not be that light, because tritium simply doesn't emit that much energy. For something more radioactive like Am-241 I could believe it. But you'd need a *lot* of tritium to generate 10 watts, and it would be very expensive. Even condensed as tritiated water under pressure, I'm not sure it'd fit into a practical volume, or be cost-effective.)

    Further, stating there's a danger of release of radioactivity is just more typically ignorant anti-nuclear FUD. The battery would be likely sealed and constructed in such a way that it would be almost impossible to break. This isn't difficult; my USB flash drive can handle a semi truck driving over it.

Pause for storage relocation.

Working...