NanoTritium, the first commercially available nuclear powered Tritium battery has been launched by small engineering company City Labs. Able to outlast a room full of Eveready bunnies, the Tritium battery is virtually indestructible while running 20years nonstop.
Tritium is a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen that due to the instability of the atom breaks down slowly, eventually becoming helium and releasing electrons in the process.
The development of the nuclear powered battery was born out of the US Air Force’s requirement for long-lasting batteries for aircraft, computers, sensors, radar systems and unmanned aerial vehicles. City Labs won the contract to develop the battery in 2010, NanoTritium is the first product to appear from this work.
Helping to rebuild America’s high tech small businesses Peter Cabauy, Denset Serralta established City Labs while building the incubator infrastructure that will help other engineering grads go from graduate to start-up, assisting with office space and connections. Once established City Labs sought a problem to solve, NanoTritium batteries would become the solution to this first challenge.
“Basically they can be used for items like sensors where you cannot maintain them but you need them to be operating for a long time,” said Serralta, chief technology officer of City Labs.
The NanoTritium battery has been designed to operate in extreme environments for long periods of time. Able to withstand temperatures from -50 to 150 degrees Celsius for up to 20 years.
Producing only very small amounts of power, nano-watts, the NanoTritium battery in its current form will never power our larger gadgets like mobile phones or tablets, but it can provide ample power for the micro-sensors and other small devices it has been designed for. There is a larger surface mount battery in the works that should be able to provide three volts at 50 microWatts.
Initially the battery will be on the expensive side, expected to initially cost over a $1000 USD per unit.
Nuclear batteries have been well known and understood since the 50’s, most satellites use a slightly different variation to create larger amounts of power for long periods. For these power hungry systems the nuclear battery is based on thermo-electric technology. A simple technology without moving parts that makes use of extremely radioactive substances such as Plutonium. The decay of the plutonium generates heat which is converted directly into electricity by special alloys. The Mars rover Curiosity uses 2.5 pounds of Plutonium in the heart of its battery to provide power, potentially for up to 15 years.
In an ever increasingly wired world powering these electricity hungry devices is a major challenge. The first commercially available nuclear powered battery has started small but broken incredibly important ground. The power of the future may just be a little bit of nuclear at a time.