Isotope Beta-Battery Approaches for Long-Lived Sensors: Technology Review

Report No. ARL-TR-7048
Authors: Marc Litz
Date/Pages: August 2014; 32 pages
Abstract: Isotope batteries offer solutions for long-lived (100 yr), low-power (100 ¼W) energy sources. The energy density of nuclear batteries uniquely serves applications for sensors or communications nodes that are required to last the lifetime of infrastructure. Efficiencies less than 10% are typical in direct-energy-conversion (DEC) of radiation to electric current, which is comparable to thermo-electrics (TE) and thermo-photo-voltaics (TPV). For low-power applications, avoiding a heat-cycle (Carnot limitation) is useful in reducing a heat signature. A beta-source is coupled directly to a semiconductor (or includes a phosphor/optical conversion in addition, before a semiconductor) conversion to free-electrons, creating current in an electrical load. A review of b-voltaics is presented. Novel approaches are identified for next-generation compact electronics and sensor applications. An inexpensive, commercially-available-off the-shelve (COTS) design is proposed to provide an immediate example.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: August 1, 2014