Chinese startup unveils miniature atomic battery

Betavolt claims its coin-sized battery can generate electricity for 50 years. No charging or maintenance needed.

A Beijing-based startup called Betavolt New Energy Technology Co., Ltd.announced in early January that it has successfully developed a miniature atomic energy battery, which can power devices for 50+ years.

“This product combines nickel 63 nuclear isotope decay technology and China's first diamond semiconductor (4th generation) module to successfully realize the miniaturization of atomic energy batteries,” the tech company boasts on its website as translated by NewsCafe via Google Translate. 

Betavolt claims to have entered the "pilot stage" for the BV100 battery, which is smaller than a coin, and is working to put it in mass production for commercial use. It anticipates the battery being used in industries ranging from aerospace to robotics and smartphones.

“If policies allow, atomic energy batteries can allow a mobile phone to never be charged, and drones that can only fly for 15 minutes can fly all the time,” the Betavolt statement reads.

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BV100 features 100 microwatts of power, 3 volts, and a size of 15 x 15 x 5 cubic millimeters.

It is a physical battery, rather than an electrochemical battery, with energy density is more than 10 times that of lithium batteries and storage capacity of 3,300 megawatt hours per one gram. It works normally within the range of 120 to -60 degrees Celsius, and does not need being charged or run maintenance.

Betavolt assures that its BV100 battery is safe for health and does not emit any external radiation. Actually, people can use it in medical devices such as pacemakers, artificial hearts and cochleas.

The nickel isotope decays to a stable copper isotope, making it easily recyclable.

The structure of the BV100 battery. Credit: Betavolt

The company has registered a BV100 patent with China and will seek its international recognition as soon as possible. It plans to continue research on using isotopes such as strontium 90, promethium 147 and deuterium to develop other nuclear batteries with higher power and a service life ranging between 2 and 30 years.

Betavolt is not the first to float the idea of a nuclear battery: a San Francisco-based startup called NBD claimed in 2020 to have successfully tested a similar technology at two laboratories in the United States and the United Kingdom.

However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued the company in September 2023 on fraud charges. It turned out NBD had lied to investors about the tests and had no functional prototype, and yet it carried on raising more than 1.2 million dollars to finance the project. and currently has no functional prototype to show. 

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