Scientists at MU Reactor Contribute to Development of Long Lasting Power Source
New Power Cells Can Provide Power for Nearly 20 Years without Charging
COLUMBIA, MO -- For years scientists who have studied areas in the far reaches of space or remote areas on the earth have had a problem with providing power to a variety of sensors and electronic equipment needed to accumulate the data. That problem is now solved, thanks to a partnership between scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia's Research Reactor (MURR) and Qynergy Corporation, who have devised a power cell that will provide continuous power for years.
MURR scientists and researchers from Qynergy Corporation developed an optimum design of betavoltaic power cells, an alternative power source for electronic devices. The partnership has yielded the highest energy conversion efficiency ever recorded for such cells. This discovery will create new capabilities for applications that require longer power life in compact, low volume containers. The cells have the potential for continuously generating small amounts of electricity for nearly 20 years.
"In our research, we were able to obtain an energy conversion efficiency of 11 percent, while the highest success to date had only been 5 percent," said David Robertson, associate director of research and education at MURR. "Our previous research at MURR that developed isotopes for radiopharmaceuticals made it an ideal place to develop and produce the isotopes needed for these compact power sources for homeland security, defense and other applications."
The technology used in betavoltaic power cells is similar to solar power generation, but uses radioisotopes as the energy source rather than sunlight. The cells use isotopes that are fully contained within the power cell-similar to the radioactive source found in many household smoke detectors-and can be used without external risk.
The technology transforms the energy of beta particles into electrical power-with the capacity to generate electricity for months or years, depending on the energy and half-life of the isotope used. The power cells, called QynCells, are rugged, safe and portable, and are capable of operating in harsh environments and extreme temperatures with no required maintenance.
The project was funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate. The QynCell can be used as a stand-alone power source or coupled with a variety of power storage and power generation technologies, either to extend the overall power system lifetime or to generate extra power. Future work might lead to integrating the QynCells with super capacitors and rechargeable lithium ion batteries and using the technology for micro and nano systems.
The Air Force is extending funding for the development of QynCell designs for specific Department of Defense applications using two isotopes, promethium-47 and krypton-85, for devices with lifetimes ranging from one to 20 years and for power ranging from microwatts to tens of milliwatts depending on the needs and requirements of the specific application.
Editor's Note: For reference, a "milliwatt" is 1,000 times greater than a "microwatt." Additional information about MURR and Qynergy follows.
About the University of Missouri-Columbia Research Reactor:
The University of Missouri Research Reactor Center is a multi-disciplinary research, development and education center operated by the University of Missouri-Columbia, with a focus on interdisciplinary research and development programs and partnerships with MU departments, other universities, federal and industrial labs.
The University of Missouri-Columbia is the only university in the world to have brought three radiopharmaceuticals to market (Ceretec, Quardramet® and TheraSpheres®), and MURR researchers continue to pursue novel medical and other applications for a range of radioisotopes as well as being the sole provider in the nation for certain key products and services.
MURR is a unique academic facility for "ultra-trace" elemental isotopic analysis, providing researchers around the world with access to neutron activation analysis (NAA), high-resolution inductively coupled-mass spectrometry (HR-ICP-MS) and energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (XRF). MURR is recognized for its collaborative work with the best epidemiology programs in the country and has been funded continuously for more than 25 years, primarily through NIH grants and subcontracts.
About Qynergy Corporation
The Qynergy Corporation, founded in 2001, is a privately held high-technology company with core competencies in semiconductors, energy systems and microelectronics. Qynergy is the developer of the radioisotope fueled "QynCell" micro power technology and associated products. In 2002 Qynergy received an equity investment from In-Q-Tel; a private non-profit enterprise funded by the Central Intelligence Agency with a mission is to identify and invest in cutting edge technology solutions that serve U.S. National Security. The company's headquarters are in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information, see www.qynergy.com.
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