Nuclear batteries the size of a penny unveiled

Researchers have demonstrated a penny-sized “nuclear battery” that produces energy from the decay of radioisotopes…

Nuclear batteries have been in use for military and aerospace applications, but are typically far larger.

The University of Missouri team says that the batteries hold a million times as much charge as standard batteries.

They have developed it in an attempt to scale down power sources for the tiny devices that fall under the category of micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (Mems and Nems).

The means to power such devices has been a subject of study as vigorous as the development of the devices themselves.

The Missouri team, led by Jae Wan Kwon and J.David Robertson, employed a liquid semiconductor to capture and utilise the decay particles…

Most nuclear batteries use a solid semiconductor to harvest the particles, but the particles’ extremely high energies means that the semiconductors suffer damage over time…

The team’s solution incorporates a liquid semiconductor, in which the particles can pass without causing damage.

So – no one will need replaceable batteries. They’ll outlast the device and the owner.

Solar Cell investments to reach parity with semiconductor industry

Worldwide investments in the production of Photovoltaic (PV) cells will rise to the same level as those for semiconductor manufacturing by 2010, due to booming demand for solar energy, according to iSuppli Corp.

Global production of PV cells is expected to rise to as much as 12 Gigawatts (GW) by 2010, up from 3.5GW in 2007. By 2010, as many as 400 production lines in the world that can produce at least 1 Megawatt (MW) of PV cells per year will be in place, representing a four-fold increase from about 90 to 100 production lines in 2007. Factories capable of 1GW of annual PV production also will be established in the future to ensure continued strong delivery of PV cells to the market.

The market for PV cells is estimated to grow by 40 percent annually until 2010, and 20 percent beyond, said Dr. Henning Wicht. Nearly all market participants plan to increase their sales by a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 40 to 50 percent during the next few years. Wicht noted that heavy investments will be required to finance the expansion of PV cell production. Each PV factory will require an investment of $500 million and more, will employ as many as 1,000 workers per site, and will generate annual revenue of $1 billion per year or more, putting them into the size, cost and employment range of semiconductor fabs…

With these cost reductions, many regions throughout the world will soon reach grid parity…a point at which PV electricity costs the same or less than power derived from the electrical grid. PV grid parity is expected beginning 2012 in nations where sunshine is plentiful and constant, and 2018 in areas of the world with adequate or medium sun exposure.

The people who build and profit from power generation know where the future lies. How long will it take the public and politicians to catch up?