Chinese power specialist Betavolt claims it will be the first to launch an "atomic energy battery" for civilian use, unveiling the BV100 "nuclear battery" — delivering, the company admits, a somewhat sedate 100µW at 3V per battery.
"Betavolt atomic energy batteries can generate electricity stably and autonomously for 50 years without the need for charging or maintenance," the company claims, in translation, of its technology. "Betavolt atomic energy batteries can meet the needs of long-lasting power supply in multiple scenarios such as aerospace, AI equipment, medical equipment, MEMS systems, advanced sensors, small drones and micro-robots. This new energy innovation will help China gain a leading edge in the new round of AI technological revolution."
In its announcement, brought to our attention by Tom's Hardware, Betavolt says its nuclear batteries have reached the "pilot stage" ahead of planned mass production — with company chair and chief executive Zhang Wei confirming the first commercial variant as the BV100. This, he says, will deliver 100µW at 3V based on a 15×15×5mm (around 0.59×0.59×0.2") device size. While that's not exactly comparable to conventional chemical alternatives, the device is designed to harvest nuclear decay to continually produce its own energy — meaning that, if you don't exceed a draw of 8.64 joules per day, your device never needs to be charged.
The battery works thanks to nickel-63, a radioactive isotope the beta-particle decay of which is captured by diamond semiconductor layers just 10 microns thick on either side. Multiple layers are placed within the housing, generating the claimed 100µW — and scaling up, the company claims, to a planned 1W battery by 2025. "If policies allow," Betavolt suggests, "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 isn't the only company looking to power future gadgets with nuclear energy, though: back in April 2021 nanotechnology startup NDB unveiled similar batteries driven by radioactive isotopes harvested from nuclear waste, with prototypes supposedly able to run for six to nine years provided with nothing more than access to fresh air.
More information on the technology is available, in Chinese, on the Betavolt website; so far the company has not disclosed pricing nor availability of its commercialized BV100.