“In life, we are often embarrassed by insufficient battery power. At this time, I often feel that if the battery can be used for hundreds of years at a time, it is so worrying and pleasant.
In life, we are often embarrassed by insufficient battery power. At this time, I often feel that if the battery can be used for hundreds of years at a time, it is so worrying and pleasant.
In fact, we humans really have this ultimate form of batteries-nuclear batteries. And it has achieved considerable development in the 1960s, and has a wide range of applications in aerospace, medicine, and military.
There are three forms of obtaining nuclear energy: nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and nuclear decay. The atomic bomb is fission, and the hydrogen bomb is fusion. Atoms release energy through split or polymerization reactions, which are earth-shattering, landslides and ground-breaking. Nuclear decay is a process in which radioactive atoms continue to spontaneously release energy outward. The process is mild, and the power is negligible compared to the nuclear reaction. The nuclear batteries currently used by humans are nuclear decay batteries. It is also the first generation nuclear battery.
With the future development of science and technology, the second-generation nuclear battery will also be the same as the nuclear battery detonated by the movie “Ultimate” T800 and the nuclear fusion battery on the chest of “Iron Man”. It will become a miniature nuclear reactor, providing users with a huge and endless source of energy. .
During the decay process of radioactive isotopes, they will continuously emit radiation with heat energy. The device that uses semiconductor transducers to convert thermal energy into electrical energy is a nuclear battery. It is powered by the energy released by the natural decay of atoms.
The appearance of a general nuclear battery is similar to that of an ordinary chemical battery, and it is cylindrical. A radioisotope source is sealed in the center of the cylinder, and a semiconductor transducer is wrapped on the outside. The outer layer of the transducer is a radiation shielding layer, and the outermost layer is a metal cylindrical shell.
Nuclear batteries can be divided into high voltage type and low voltage type according to different radioactive elements. The high voltage type is used in aerospace and military applications. The low-voltage type can be made very small, and is usually used in the medical field.
The size of the micro nuclear battery developed in the United States in recent years can be controlled in the size of a dollar coin. But the electricity is 1 million times that of ordinary chemical batteries. The successful development of this type of battery has extremely broad application prospects for micro-robots, micro-electromechanical systems and system integration and multi-function.
The size of a medical nuclear battery is usually a cylindrical battery with a diameter of 9 mm and a length of 13 mm, and the weight is generally more than 40-100 grams. Thousands of heart disease patients in the world have implanted cardiac pacemakers powered by nuclear batteries. They were given a second life, with a service life of 15 years.
If it is replaced with a chemical battery of the same power and life, it will weigh as much as a human body. Patients with chemical batteries implanted in their bodies need frequent thoracotomy to replace them, which is undoubtedly risking their lives to endure tremendous pain.
As far as aerospace is concerned, the weight and performance requirements of space vehicles are extremely demanding. Because of the sufficient energy and long life, nuclear batteries are not affected by the external environment’s temperature, pressure, chemical reactions, electromagnetic reactions, etc., and have the characteristics of continuous release of energy, and have the incomparable advantages of chemical batteries. As long as space exists, they can work. Ability is simply the best power source for space flight. The countries currently mastering nuclear battery manufacturing R&D capabilities are China, the United States, and Russia.
In the picture below, the astronaut holding a cylindrical device is a nuclear battery
In 1959, the world’s first nuclear battery was born in the United States. It weighs 1.8 kg and can release 11.6 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 280 days. After that, nuclear batteries entered a period of rapid development.
In 1961, the first American artificial satellite “Explorer One” carried nuclear batteries into outer space for the first time. Begin testing to allow satellites to carry nuclear batteries into outer space to work.
In the following 10 years, after analyzing and improving the data on the use of nuclear batteries on the “Midridian” series of navigation satellites, “Lincoln” experimental satellites, and “Nimbus” series meteorological satellites, Apollo 11 in 1969 The spacecraft landed on the moon, carrying two nuclear batteries using plutonium-238 as a radioactive isotope to land on the moon.
It is the application of nuclear batteries that unmanned space probes have the possibility to stay away from the sun and explore deep space. When solar cells cannot get enough sunlight, only nuclear cells can support the detector to continue working.
Later, with the support of nuclear batteries, a series of probes such as “pirates”, “pioneers”, and “voyagers” had a series of expeditions to detect Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. Only then can the detected information and data be transmitted back to the earth, so that we can see the close look of these distant neighbors.
In particular, Voyager 1, which has been 21.1 billion kilometers away from the earth so far, has been flying for 40 years, and has reached beyond the planetary orbit of the solar system. This is the farthest flight in human history. Nuclear batteries are still performing their duties and let mankind know the solar wind. Information on the edge of the world.
The famous “Curiosity” Mars rover is powered by all-core batteries, and solar panels have been eliminated.
The black cylinder at the back of the picture below is a nuclear battery
During the Soviet Union, in the 1960s and 1980s, dozens of nuclear battery satellites were also launched for marine detection and reconnaissance. These satellites are low-orbiting satellites, forming the Soviet Union’s famous “mythical” sea and sky detection system. The main task is to track and locate the US aircraft carrier battle group in real time around the world. It is necessary to continuously transmit coordinate and image information to the ground. The combination of nuclear battery and solar energy can well meet high-power long-term work.
During the 1982 Anglo-Mara Islands War, the Soviet Union controlled the movement of the British fleet through “myths” and contacted the Argentine government to provide intelligence, but it was rejected by Argentina. Well, Argentina doesn’t believe in tears.
China’s aerospace isotope nuclear battery was successfully developed in 2006 by the Chinese Academy of Atomic Energy. When the “Chang’e” probe landed on the moon, nuclear batteries were used.
The moon alternates between day and night every 14 days, and the moon’s daytime temperature is 127 degrees Celsius. The temperature at night dropped to minus 190 degrees Celsius, with a temperature difference of 300 degrees. At such a cold temperature, all the instruments on the “Yutu” lunar rover would be damaged by freezing. At such a low temperature, no matter it is a lithium battery, a hydrogen battery, or an aluminum battery, none of them can work properly. The lunar rover and the Chang’e probe in the dark rely on the energy of nuclear batteries to maintain temperature and ground communication. Waiting for the day to come.
Nuclear batteries have many advantages, but they also have disadvantages. As the first-generation nuclear battery currently in use, only 10%-20% of the heat energy is used due to the performance of thermal energy conversion materials. The rest of the energy is wasted and cannot be converted. Limited by the thermal energy conversion rate, the current is limited, and if sufficient power is to be provided, the large volume will immediately produce high radiation. The plutonium and other elements used are also extremely toxic. This is a double-edged sword, and we can only wait for the future.
With the improvement of technology and material performance, after further improving the thermal energy conversion rate and replacing radioactive isotopes, the future application fields will be more extensive, including the polar regions on the earth, islands, mountains, deserts, deep seas and other harsh natural environments and inconvenient transportation. The place will be the place where it can show its talents.
However, in the civilian field, the promotion and popularization of nuclear batteries are extremely difficult. The first is the price issue. Plutonium and polonium used in battery raw materials are difficult to obtain, and some even need to be extracted from spent nuclear fission materials. The price is destined to be very expensive.
The biggest obstacle is not price. Pan-civil use will also cause nuclear safety issues. Collecting and storing battery cells will easily create a dirty bomb, and everyone will have the ability to destroy society. Being used by special organizations will be one man-made disaster after another.
The second is the issue of security. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union have experienced battery rupture and burnt-out accidents. Although the current nuclear battery is extremely safe, once it breaks or breaks, the internal radioactive elements will be directly exposed to the air. This will cause great concern among the people.
When NASA launched the “Cassini” Saturn probe in 1997, there were public protests. Worry about the environmental pollution caused by the failed launch of the battery.
Although nuclear decay batteries do not explode, they only release energy slowly without a reaction, and do not have to worry about becoming a miniature atomic bomb, but radiation also makes most ordinary people talk about nuclear discoloration.
At the moment, we can only see it shine in the professional field. Especially the space full of fantasy and unknown, this is the ocean of applications of nuclear batteries.