Generating Electric Power From Alpha-Particle Sources

  • Magazine Article
  • TBMG-29512
Published December 01, 2000 by Tech Briefs Media Group in United States
  • English

Small electric power cells based on the direct conversion of kinetic energy of alpha particles into electricity have been proposed. These cells are expected to function continuously over long times and at temperatures from -250 to 600 °C. They would be made from semiconductors that are stable at high temperatures (most likely GaAs or SiC). The a-particle sources in these cells will likely be made from curium-244, the radioactivity of which is characterized by a half-life of about 18 years and consists nearly entirely of a particles. The proposed cells could be useful as power sources for low-power electronic circuits that are required to operate for long times without recharging or external wire power connections, and without relying on sunlight. Potential outer-space and terrestrial applications could include electronic circuits for spacecraft on long interplanetary or deep-space missions, hearing aids, and surgically implanted medical electronic devices.