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Nuclear powered throwies keep Boston on terror alert for sixth decade, seventh on horizon. Answered

OK, so it's an attention-grabbing headline, but the potential is now there.

Radio-isotope batteries (the same things that have kept the Voyager craft alive since the seventies) can hold a million times as much charge as a standard chemical bettery the same size.

As radioactive isotopes decay, the charged particles they emit are trapped by semiconductors and turned into useful current.  Past versions of the battery have used solid semiconductors, which suffer damage from the radiation, so need to be large to survive as long as the isotope. 

Now, a team from the University of Missouri has developed a liquid semiconductor that can survive the damage whilst having much less bulk, and have put together batteries the size of a coin.  They are working on much smaller versions, capable of powering micro- or nano-scale devices.

Just imagine the possibilities...


University of Missouri - Nuclear battery links

BBC Story

Discussions

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rimar2000

9 years ago

AWESOME! That could be a "quantum leap" technology, the same order as the advent of the computer.

It's hard to think today in devices that do not require NEVER change or recharge batteries, which would be possible if these researchers can "get the cat to water".  It is also difficult to imagine a laptop so light that you have to put up a paperweight for the breeze of the air conditioning did not fly it...

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kelseymhrimar2000

Reply 9 years ago

This raises a really interesting question -- just how small could you make a fully-operational personal computer (say, something with the capability of a Netbook).<br />I think the technology already exists to make one the size of a deck of playing cards:<ul> <li>Hundreds of GB of storage in something the size of a little MP3 player</li> <li>WiFi transceivers fit inside a standard USB "thumbdrive" casing</li> <li><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Celluon-CL800BT-Laser-Projection-Keyboard/dp/B000ESNE8S">Projected keyboards</a> could be integrated (not a separate box)</li> <li>The same technology could make an RGB projected display</li></ul>Without a big display, hard drive, etc., you don't need much power at 5V to drive everything. A standard cellphone battery (say 3.7V, 1000 mAh) ought to be enough to run such a machine for a couple of days between charges.<br /><br />I'm not competent enough as an electronics engineer to prototype something like this, but it seems like a really great challenge for the DIY experts out there.<br />

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shabakikelseymh

Reply 9 years ago

umm i dont thik they are readly available tothe public but they alredy have projected keyboards. it uses irfrared to see which u hit and just projects the keyboard shape and chaacters and such i think

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kelseymhshabaki

Reply 9 years ago

Are you talking about the projected keyboard (which is available on Amazon for under $200, as I linked, and has been for a couple of years), or about my hypothetical idea of a projected display?  There already exist, available by retail, small (router-box sized) projector displays, but  I think something smaller could be done.

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kelseymhkelseymh

Reply 9 years ago

I've transferred this to a separate <a href="https://www.instructables.com/community/How-small-could-you-make-a-working-computer/">forum topic</a>.<br />

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Molten Boronrimar2000

Reply 9 years ago

That is called a Mac.
The "paperweight" used in them is mostly sand, and some steel.
And the operating system.

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shabaki

9 years ago

now i need one about the sze of a d cell batery * opens desk droor * now wered that taser get to..................

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Kryptonite

9 years ago

Wow, a thousand and one uses could come from this, easily. Although, would disposal be a problem?

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minerugKryptonite

Reply 9 years ago

I suspect it would depend on the radioisotope and the half life of it 

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=SMART=

9 years ago

Thats cool, dont really understand the technology but i can imagine thousands of uses

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kelseymh=SMART=

Reply 9 years ago

The techology is surprisingly easy.  Think about a photovoltaic cell.  In it, you have light hitting the material, which knocks electrons loose from their atoms (yes, I am way oversimplifying!).  Those electrons can then be encouraged to flow through the rest of your circuit.

With this stuff, the radioactive decay itself produces electrons, which are collected in the semiconductor material and passed out into your circuit.  It doesn't need light, it doesn't need chemistry.  The significant downside is that if you want any kind of substantial current, you have to have a highly radioactive source, which leads to difficulties with manufacture, disposal, and those pesky airport security folks.

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Goodhart

9 years ago

<input type="hidden" id="gwProxy"><!--Session data--></input>well, if any radiation leaks out, you wouldn't need the electrical charge, just some phosphers for that greenish Glow in the Dark look ;-) oh, wait, that was Radium, wasn't it......hmmm<input type="hidden" id="jsProxy" onclick="jsCall();" /><div id="refHTML"> </div>

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kelseymh

9 years ago

Nice!  Of course, if you lose one in northern Canada, you're going to have the Black Helicopters swarming all over your arse :-)

And do they really cost a dime?!?  I could sure use one for my cell phone...

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Kitemankelseymh

Reply 9 years ago

I doubt they cost a dime - I believe that is there (as is traditional) for scale.

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kelseymhKiteman

Reply 9 years ago

:-/  Ah, the curse of the missing smiley....Thank you for clarifying that for me, Mr. Kiteman, Sir.

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Molten BoronKiteman

Reply 9 years ago

BOY HOWDY THAT THERE IS A BIIIIIIIIIG DIME.

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RedneckEngineer

9 years ago

OOOooo  I want a nuclear powered LED book light!  But it might be a little cost prohibitive right now.