China develops nuclear battery that keeps smartphones charged for 5 decades

Imagine never having to charge your smartphone.
  • China has developed a thumb-sized nuclear battery that can supposedly keep producing charge for 50 years
  • As well as powering smartphones, Betavolt’s nuclear battery will also power laptops and drones
  • According to the Chinese startup, the energy density of its tiny unit is 10 times that of similar-sized lithium-ion batteries

Published on Jan 25, 2024 at 8:13PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Feb 5, 2024 at 8:48PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Alessandro Renesis

While some iPhone users are saying Apple’s latest update is ruining their phone, China has developed a nuclear battery.

Nuclear and smartphone aren’t two words you’d put together, but this new technology will apparently provide enough juice to keep you going for five decades.

Imagine that.

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Beijing-based Betavolt has developed the coin-sized device which it says can keep producing a charge for 50 years.

So much for this guy’s clever iPhone hack, which gives you ‘unlimited’ battery life.

Interestingly, the Chinese startup isn’t the only one trying to break new ground.

It’s joining a field that includes Australia’s PhosEnergy, which was given $2.3 million in 2022 to explore producing extra-long-life batteries for the Department of Defence.

However, Betavolt is aiming for a much larger market with smaller devices powering mobile phones, laptops and drones.

“If policies permit, atomic energy batteries can allow a mobile phone to never be charged, and drones that can only fly for 15 minutes can fly continuously,” Betavolt said in a statement.

Public policy may be the sticking point, though, as existing coin-sized lithium-ion batteries can cause life-threatening injuries is swallowed.

Not to paint a gruesome picture, but if a lithium-ion battery was swallowed by a child, its charge could burn through their oesophagus within a few hours.

On a more positive note, Betavolt says the energy density of its tiny nuclear battery is 10 times that of similar-sized lithium batteries.

What they didn’t say, though, is that a small nuclear battery could pose an additional risk: beta radiation.

The nuclear battery harnesses beta radiation released from a radioactive nickel isotope and converts it into electricity.

A high-speed, high-energy, low-mass electron, beta particles aren’t the most dangerous form of radiation.

It can’t travel as far as an X-ray, or carry as much energy as an alpha particle.

And while it has sufficient impact to pierce several millimeters of skin, a small amount of shielding provides adequate protection.

Much like a lithium-ion battery, the most significant health risk would be if it was ingested.

But Betavolt believes the potential for a long-life battery for drones, robotics and autonomous systems far outweighs any risk.

It also added that its development puts China “way ahead” of European and American scientific research institutions and enterprises.

According to the company, production has entered the pilot stage, with mass production expected in 2025.

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