Introduction: DIY Nuclear Generator

Hello, and welcome to your personal guide for making a DIY Nuclear Generator! This bespoke tutorial will guide you through the steps to make your own safe and fun device to convert nuclear energy into electricity.

Watch the video above to see how your nuclear generator can power a portable video game system! Are you excited yet?!

For a limited time, enter the raffle to win my Nuclear Powered "Gameboy" system! This raffle benefits kids living near the Chernobyl disaster.

Get started making your own by ordering your supplies:


[QTY 2] Solar Cell: Low-Light, 3.7 x 1.5 inches
[QTY 25] Tritium Vial: Green, 3 x 22.5 mm

Step 1: What Is Nuclear Power?

Before we can get started, we need to remind ourselves what nuclear power is. When an element is radioactive, it emits particles, energy waves, and/or heat. In a nuclear reactor, radioactive Uranium decays in a self-sustaining chain reaction that releases lots of heat (and lots of dangerous particles and energy waves). That heat is used to boil water, which turns a steam turbine, which makes electricity the old-fashioned way. Simple, right?

But this isn't an Instructable about refining Uranium. We want something much, much safer. So, we're going to use tiny glass vials full of Tritium. This is a slightly radioactive Hydrogen gas that emits electrons (beta particles), which hit the phosphors on the inside of the glass vials, causing them to glow. We're going to convert that light into electricity using special solar cells that are very good at collecting energy in low-light situations.

I tested out every color of Tritium vial, and tested multiple types of solar cells to find the combination that generated the most power. Use the links in the "Supplies" section to see exactly which products I used.

SAFETY INFORMATION: These tritium vials are inherently safe because the electrons (beta particles) can't escape the glass tubes. These vials are used commonly in wrist-watches, keychains, and pendants, so you can rest assured that you aren't putting yourself in any danger.

Step 2: Build Your Nuclear Generator!

Use a laser-cutter or 3D printer to make a frame that will hold your tritium vials and solar cells together. The inner dimensions of the frame should fit your vials, and the outer dimensions of the frame should match your solar cells. Your frame dimensions will vary depending on what dimensions your vials are, how many you buy, and which solar cells you buy, so I will leave that design to you. I recommend laser-cutting the frame out of acrylic, to get slightly more energy, but it's not necessary and 3D printing in plastic will work just fine.

Next, solder wires to your solar cells. If you buy the ones I recommended, the leads are covered in a thin film of plastic to protect them, so you will need to scrape this off carefully with a knife or use your soldering iron to melt it off (be sure to clean your soldering tip afterwards!).

Finally, assemble your nuclear generator. Tape one of the solar cells to the frame, and turn it upside down. Place the tritium vials into the frame, and then tape the other solar cell to the open face of the frame. Use black electrical tape to cover all of the seams so you can be absolutely sure there's no light leaking into your nuclear generator.

That's it - you're done! You can wire your solar cells in series or parallel depending on your application. I wired mine in series. At peak power I was able to get about 1.5 microwatts of nuclear power. Not much, eh? There's more power in a mouse fart!

Step 3: Using Your Nuclear Generator

Now, with only 1.5 microwatts of power, it's going to be difficult to find something that's low-power enough to use this nuclear generator for.

I used a special type of battery called a thin-film solid state battery to store that power for several weeks, so that I would have enough power saved up to play a portable video game system. I found mine on the surplus electronics market and soldered them to a custom printed circuit board (PCB) I designed that connects them all in parallel, but you don't need to go to all that trouble of designing your own PCB. If you can find some of those batteries, and you're good with soldering small parts, you can just solder them together with wires.

Have fun!

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