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-147 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.
About the University of Missouri-Columbia Research
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 http://www.qynergy.com .