Nuclear powered mini-batteries are small, maintenance-free and long-lasting. Russian researchers have now discovered how they can significantly increase the transit time without releasing dangerous gamma rays. The atomic batteries could be used in cardiac pacemakers.
The nickel-63 isotope of interest for the nuclear battery decomposes into harmless beta radiation without harmful gamma rays. Therefore, it is from the perspective of researchers suitable for use in medicine.
Russian scientists say they have made significant technical progress towards medically usable nuclear batteries. In a gas centrifuge, they were able to increase the radioactive isotope nickel-63 (Ni-63) to more than 69%, said the state-owned Russian manufacturer of nuclear fuel TVEL in Moscow. The isotope can be considered as a possible source of energy for nuclear batteries.
Atomic battery: High enrichment level Equal life
The higher the degree of enrichment, the higher the lifetime of the (mini) nuclear battery. Based on the current enrichment method, an enrichment of more than 80% should be achieved at the research facility in Selenogorsk in Siberia this year. The atomic batteries do not produce the current as in the nuclear power plant by the energy development of a deliberately induced nuclear fission.
Rather, the electricity production results from the natural decay of radioisotopes such as nickel-63 or tritium. By the way, Nickel-63 is not found in nature. It is therefore an artificially produced isotope whose half-life is 100 years.
Nickel-63: “Gentle Beta Radiation Without Harmful Gamma Radiation”
The half-life (or half-life ) generally refers to the period of time after which a declining quantity – in this case the radioactivity – has fallen to half the initial value. According to TVEL, Nickel-63 decomposes into “soft beta radiation without harmful gamma radiation”, which is why it is considered for use in medicine.
Beta-rays can be used well with a few millimeters thick absorber Environment shielded. The shielding material should consist of the lightest possible atoms, with a second absorber located behind it can shield the residual radiation. According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), a simple plastic packaging is sufficient to shield the radiation.
Gamma radiation, on the other hand, is a particularly aggressive, penetrating electromagnetic radiation. It arises when the atomic nuclei of naturally occurring or artificially produced radioisotopes spontaneously decay. In the human body, depending on the radiation dose, it can lead to extensive cell, genetic and tissue damage, which can be fatal at higher doses.
Atomic battery: Lifespan up to 50 years possible
Nuclear batteries with the beta emitter By contrast, nickel-63s appear to be safe if adequately shielded. That’s why they could be used in “pacemakers and other biostimulators,” says TVEL. The batteries of a cardiac pacemaker currently hold between 5 to 10 years before they need to be replaced. By contrast, compact nuclear batteries could last up to 50 years.
Incidentally, the idea of using a pacemaker powered by nuclear batteries is not entirely new. According to the BfS were some patients in the US, but also in Germany in the mid-1970s used pacemaker batteries with the isotope Promethium-147. However, there have been problems with battery size, lifetime and radiation shielding.