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Is it possible to draw energy from an ion chamber? Answered

On a purely theoretical basis, would it be possible to harness a small sample of radioactive material and an ion chamber to produce a small trickle of electricity?

I'm not sure what the practical use of a device would be, and I'm well aware of the risks and dangers involved; I'm asking to satisfy my own curiosity.

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Kiteman

7 years ago

Lots of satellites and space-probes use nuclear batteries to generate electricity from nuclear decay.

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lemonie

7 years ago

Yes you could.
But unless it's very highly* active it's not a good source of electrical energy.

L

*i.e. lethally

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Jack A Lopez

7 years ago

There's more than one way to extract energy from a small chunk of radioactive stuff. Here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_battery

That page lists a number of methods.  I think for most of these, the problem you're going to find is that you've got a small number of charged particles with very high energy.  E.g.  thousands of particles/second, with energies in the MeV.

In contrast, a usable flow of electricity, e.g. enough to light up an LED,  consists of about 1016 electrons/second, at potential of just a few volts, or eV per electron. 

It's like you have to "step down" the potential of those fast particles by a factor of a million or so, to get from MeVs to just a few eVs.