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back to article Coin-sized nuclear isotope battery minted

A boffin in Missouri has invented a nuclear-powered battery the size of a penny. Professor Jae Kwon believes that radioisotope batteries can hold a million times as much juice as today's chemical types, perhaps offering the potential for devices like torches and cellphones which would never run flat. The sulphur-isotope battery …

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Whoa

I say again - whoa!

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Headmaster

Hmmm...

Silly Americans, that's a one cent, not a penny... Does it have the word penny or pence written on it? No... Now go and find your own names for things and stop nicking ours!

You know you can do it... You managed it with popsickle (*sniggers*)

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Paris Hilton

No more nuclear waste?

Use nuclear waste to power it, is it possible?

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Coat

I think something like this powers certains ejection seat systems

Some of the more complex ones (IIRC Eurofighter and some of the Russian designs) have a microprocessor to run all the pyrotechnic actuator chains. This is run by trickle charging a capacitor from a beta emitting source.

However the liquid semicondotur idea does sound new and a very neat way to sidestep the whole radiationi damage to the perfect Silicon crystal lattice. problem.

NB The ones I've heard of are *very* low current. They score when you want very lightweight (rules out thermal batteries), fairly small but instant on power after 10+ years on standby.

Mine will be the copy of the Batteries Handbook in it.

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Exploding phone batteries

could be even more dramatic.

I can't wait

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FAIL

Re: Hmmm...

Actually, that's a dime- or 10 cents. Nice try though!

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Boffin

Going flat before its time

The picture in the article has a hidden title (mouse over to see it) which identified the power source as an isotope of sulphur. The longest-lasting radioactive isotope of sulphur is sulphur-35, whose half-life is about 88 days. So the power source is cut in half every 88 days, i.e. it drops by a factor of about 16 every year. So it is not going to last even a few years, let alone thousands of years.

Try other elements with longer half-lives, and it might just work.

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A cell battery lasting a month?

Not really long enough, if the life of the product is roughly 2 -3 years.

Plus the issue is if the battery can be recycled to cut down on waste.

Definitely a good thing!

Oh and Steve Evans... An American penny is 1 cent. But just because the Brits have a penny or pence, doesn't mean that its the only currency that can use that name. Take the dollar. There's the USD, Australian Dollar, Zimbabwe Dollar (worth much less than your penny) etc ...

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@Steve Evans

It's not a penny OR a one-cent; it's a dime in the photo.

We Canadians are way ahead here, as the pictured nuclear cell would be around the size of a Canadian $1 coin, which is known as a "loonie". That's far more appropriate!

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Great power source but what will it cost?

Will it be Dollars, Cents, pennies or pence.

BTW Ian Gumby, I think that other countries using 'Dollars' of their own shows a distinct lack of imagination on their part or some kind of sycophancy.

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Go

Guarantees extended?

If you can create a battery that "never needs its batteries replacing", would that mean it would be guaranteed for longer than the usual 1 yr? (excluding bulbs)

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Battery Manufacturers

Sounds like a good idea but not something the battery manufacturers would like. What's the chances of it getting buried before ever becoming commercial reality?

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Boffin

@Steve Evans

"Silly Americans, that's a one cent, not a penny... "

Actually, silly Britisher person, that's a dime -- a ten-cent piece -- which is slightly smaller in diameter than a penny. The face shown is clearly Franklin Roosevelt, instead of Abraham Lincoln.

...And, if one wanted to get pedantic, one might point out that the term "penny" (Old English penning) is related to the Old High German pfenning -- meaning, simply,, a coin, without reference to its value. Thus, I don't see where we are any less justified in using the name than is a nation who changed the very definition of the the term from 1/240th of a pound to 1/100th. I mean, technically, there is really no relation between the original meaning of the English penny with the current British penny except for tradition, is there?

Oh... and there's no "k" in "Popsicle®" -- It's like "icicle", that way. <insert grin here>

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@Tim 30

The dollar of course being originally used to describe a Spanish 15th Century coin, the name being borrowed from a German name of a similarly shaped coin.

It's not an American word.

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Happy

if we can move away from the numismatics

I was amused that the new battery is "smaller and less complex than a full-blown nuclear reactor."

firstly I thought, "well obviously it is!", then I thought "I don't want my nuclear reactors fully blown!"

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Anonymous Coward

@Tim 30 @MartinLee

The dollar was actually invented by the Aztecs, it was thier name for banana and they traded bananas for gunpowder with the Spanish, who subsquently nicked the name dollar - cheeky blighters.

The word penny was first coined (excuse the pun) in 1136 in a small town near naples (I forget the name now). A penny was a fish shaped stone that girls would give to thier guys and say "a penny for your thoughts" - or the equivalent of that in 12th century Italian.

... and now back to the story...

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Well...

The author did say "Penny", and not being an authority on embossed dead US presidents I let him lead me astray!

Okay, you can have the name penny for your one cent, please look after it carefully... We won't be needing it when our glorious leaders (sorry, I mean representatives of the people) finish selling us up the river (The Seine or Rhine probably) and inflict the Euro on us.

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Megaphone

Storage

I wouldn't keep the battery in pants pocket if I were you!

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Boffin

what's the use case?

I have a hard time seeing these finding their way into cell-phones and flashlights. Seems like they would not be rechargeable, would not store well (Richard Pennington above says the half life is only 60 days), and would possibly be even more of a pain to legally dispose of than current batteries. But, a power unit thinner than a human hair seems like it could have all sorts of cool futuristic applications-- possibly even woven into e-textiles? Smart-dust? Active RFID?

by the way, what do you Brits call Popsicles?

-sean

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Fire

But how much extra thickness will you need to make these things fireproof? At the moment a burning battery is nasty but not likely to contaminate a large area - with these - eek!

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Anonymous Coward

@Hungry Sean

Freezepop or Ice-pole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pop_%28frozen_snack%29

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@Matt 89

Dollar is from the German word for valley (thal) it's orginally from Jochimsthal a valley with a lot of silver mines in the middle ages.

Anyway back to the physics. Energy densities for some new direct conversion nuclear batteries are pretty good - compared to the old radio-thermal ones but are still a few orders of magnitude off anything that would run a cell phone never mind a laptop.

Best power density is less than a hamster on treadmill - which is another possible alternative for netbooks?

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Happy

@Matt 89

"I mean, technically, there is really no relation between the original meaning of the English penny with the current British penny except for tradition, is there?"

Well you're almost right.

The current British penny is actually properly called a "new penny" post decimalisation as to distinguish it from the "old penny". From memory (and I may be wrong here), the current British coinage does use the term "New Pence" when refering to its value.

Here in Canada, they do use the term "penny" when refering to the one-cent piece also, but it's used by and large as a slang term, like "buck" or "loonie" for dollar (loonie not because it is insane or anything, but because of the picture of the loon duck on it.)

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Unhappy

What happens once it hasrun out of atomic juice?

So if they make this thing to be able to run your cellphone for a few months at a reasonable price point I can see people buying it for the convenience factor. However what happens once they run flat? Presumably the active chemical components can't be replaced or recharged, it would have to be a sealed system for safety.

So are we going to have an archeological layer of landfill full of even more toxic batteries on top of our currently growing layer of nickel cadmium?

Plus, given no one can figure out if cellphones and associated ray-blasting Bluetooth devices are even safe, do you really want to be holding a mini-nuke to your ear all day long?

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@Hungry Sean

A Popsicle would be an "Ice Lolly", formerly popularly known as "Ices", now generally known as a "Lolly", plural Lollies.

Not to be confused with "Lolly", meaning negotiable currency, or "Lollipop" meaning hard sugar confectionery on a stick.

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Flame

Nuclear batteries a penny...

Honestly who the hell cares about the name of the coin past the first post, the point is that it is small and the important thing besides the size is that uses something different than chemical reaction.

What type of isotope?

Beta or Alpha emitter?

How long until we can have one that produces 1.5 volts, a decade? 5 years?

Is it dangerous as waste?

As somebody else asked, can you produce them using existing nuclear waste?

etc.

People with two or more neurons in work condition do not care about the bloody coin, got lots on my pocket (blame candy dispensers) and they're called f****** small change.

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Joke

@ Hungry Sean

What is a popsicle? If you can describe it, i can probably tell you what we call it. Unless it's something like CheeseWizz, in which case it has the generic name of 'crap' ;-)

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@Hungry Sean

"by the way, what do you Brits call Popsicles?"

Ice lollies.

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re: what's the use case?

"by the way, what do you Brits call Popsicles?"

'Ice lolly' or just 'lolly'. In a bizarre case of coin related symmetry, 'lolly' was once a popular colloquialism for 'money'.

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WTF?

With all the authority of the Interwebs

"The dollar was actually invented by the Aztec"

LOLWUT.

"Penny was first coined (excuse the pun) in 1136 in a small town near naples"

Because "penny" rolls off the tongue in Italian.

"... and now back to the story..."

Yes. PLEASE.

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@Hungry Sean

We call them "ice lollies" - singular form is "ice lolly".

@Half-life: do you people understand what a half-life is? A source with a half-life of 60 days doesn't mean that it will last 60 days. It means that after each cycle of 60 days, its remaining TTL will be halved. In other words, on day 1 it will have 100% charge. On day 60, it will have 50% charge. On day 120, it will have 25% charge. On day 180, it will have 12.5% charge. And so on. Assuming it only needs charged or replaced when it reaches 3.125% charge remaining, it will have lasted five cycles of its half-life - 5*60 = 300 days. That's most of a year for a device with a half-life of "only" 60 days. Better than your average Nokia battery.

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@Hungry Sean

Ice pops.

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Boffin

More science

For anyone who's interested, I couldn't find mention in any of the linked articles of which particular isotope of suphur was being used, but it's most probably 35S: http://nucleardata.nuclear.lu.se/nucleardata/toi/nuclide.asp?iZA=160035 (click on the bottom button, "Level scheme", and you'll see it has a very simple decay).

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Pint

@Hungry Sean

I think the Brits call popsicles "ice lollies". Both terms seem to be derived from lollypop, just from opposite ends. I guess we could theoretically also have lollycicles or icepops, which would actually make more sense when you think about it.

Beer, because it's cold too (in America, anyway.)

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Anonymous Coward

Wireless Lamps?

Could this lead to light bulbs with batteries integrated in the base, meaning you don't need a wire for your lamps?

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Happy

Popsicles = Lollypops

Popsicles = Lollypops or lollies

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Flame

Nuclear battery - don't let Sony do it

Seriously, get someone other than Sony to do this - exploding LiON batteries is bad enough, so just think of the havoc caused if one of these nuke cells went critical. Or even split, don't like the idea of a radioactive material dripped on the old fixtures and fittings, not to say one's lap (and contents thereof).

"@Tim 30 @MartinLee" (Matt89). Sorry, don't agree that the Aztec's are the originators of 'dollar' - I'd always been told that it came from Joachimsthal. And

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/cm/s/silver_joachimsthaler_of_steph.aspx

seems to confirm that memory (of dim and distant "Basic Economics" classes in high school).

Selection of icon surely doesn't need explanation...

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Boffin

@Matt 89

Wrong and wrong. Time to buy yourself a new dictionary. Even Wikipedia is more accurate than your explanations (where on earth did you find them?)

Dollar is from German thaler via spanish.

Penny is from German pfennig.

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Joke

How many do i need to make a dirty bomb?

Can you help, I need a dirty bomb and would like to pre-order now. Thanks.

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@Matt89 - I call bullshit

Dollar is a corruption of "Thaler", an old German coin.

I'm not sure I'd pay a penny for your thoughts, matey... ;)

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Yeah err great i think....

Except the shelf life of a mobile phone is less than year so why would you want one with a thousand year battery in it. In other news it now costs £1000 to dispose of your old mobile due to the costs of disposing of the radioactive batteries and fly tipping fines are going up due to the proliferation of giant rats.

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@Hungry Sean

Ice lollies. A lollipop made of ice.

Similar descriptive naming system to our name for 'grilled cheese' i.e. 'cheese on toast'. Avoids confusion and a lot of mess.

I'm hungry now.

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Mr. Nuclear??

Just scale it up a bit, it might need to be a bit bigger, and there you go. No more AlGore inconvenient lies and all that.

Works for me!

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Megaphone

Sounds good BUT...

1. How 'hot' is a live battery going to be?

2. How 'hot' is a 'dead' one?

3. AND.... dum dum dum....

*** What happens if the battery _outlasts_ the laptop/cellphone/whatever and the user wants to get the next generation laptop/cellphone/whatever? ***

Face it... After about 5 years tops, most people will be coveting something new...

(God I know for me it's about 2 years but I don't have unlimited funds so the reality is I have >= 7 year old stuff still running).

Are most people responsible enough to recycle their old machines? I honestly wouldn't trust most people let alone myself.

Sounds good, but we should try and work out all the details first.

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Joke

Back to the future...

And.. If we can't yet a Mr. Fusion make, how about a Mr. *Fission*?

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@skelband

Just to add to the unnecessary pedantry on this thread - a loon is not a duck. Further, although a loon does float, an individual who weighs the same as a loon is not made of wood, and is therefore not a witch.

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IT Angle

Icepops

Icepops are actually what we call the long frozen, flavoured-water sticks which you get un-frozen in a box and freeze yourself. They're also known as Icepoles.

Oh, and I want to replace all PC CR2032 batteries with these - perhaps then I won't get lusers whining about their RTC!

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Happy

Sorry...

I apologise... I didn't mean to completely turn this comments page into discussions about pennies, dollars (and their etymology) and ice-lollies (Popsicles).

Although it does give me a sense of perverse pride that I have the disruptive abilities of an EMP at google central.

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Flying car power source?

The problem with getting a cheap and useful flying car is mainly down to power density. Nuke battery? Problem solved. Can I pre-order?

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Grenade

Lots of lollie

OK, the definitive lolly explanation from my skool days is as follows:

If it is a fruit-flavoured ice-based confection on a stick, it is "Ice Lolly".

If it is a fruit-flavoured ice-based confection completely enclosed in a plastic sheath, the end of which you bite off prior to consumption, then it is "Ice Pop".

Erm, how did we get from nuclear-powered button cells to frozen confection, exactly?

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