Development of Long-Life, Energy-Dense Batteries Using Alpha-Beta Emitting Isotopes/Isomers
Navy SBIR 2019.1 - Topic N191-041
ONR - Ms. Lore-Anne Ponirakis -
Opens: January 8, 2019 - Closes: February 6, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Development of Long-Life, Energy-Dense Batteries Using Alpha-Beta Emitting Isotopes/Isomers


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Nuclear Technology


OBJECTIVE: Develop long-life, energy-dense battery technology using alpha-beta emitting isotopes/isomers for Directed Energy, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), portable communication devices and satellites. Develop energy sources that have better size, weight, and power (SWaP) comparable or better than current military batteries.

DESCRIPTION: Present state of the art is LI batter technology. Chemical batteries are prone to short life times and degradation from heating. Isotope/Isomer batter technology could give longer life times without the hazards of chemical energy storage batteries. Affordable, reliable, and compact sources of power are needed to increase the capabilities of Naval forces. Conventional chemical batteries and fuel cells perform adequately for many applications; however, their longevity is limited by temperature, chemical instability, and integrity issues. Power sources based on weak nuclear force can operate in extreme environments such as space, arctic, and undersea, be fabricated into a miniaturized design, and do not need to be refueled if appropriate isotopes/isomers are utilized. Additionally, many isotopes can provide energy densities thousands of times greater than electrochemical batteries or fossil fuels. These isotope sources can be produced using linear accelerator technologies. This production technique is preferred over nuclear reactor isotope production.

The alpha- or beta-voltaic is analogous to photovoltaic technology except that instead of electron-hole pair formation caused by an incident photon, the pair is formed by alpha-beta particles which deposit energy into the semiconductor. Medical Isotope production using linear accelerators has been demonstrated [Ref 5].

PHASE I: Investigate the utility of different isotopes/isomers for energy storage with optimal half-lives to give the best energy gain over time. Identify best production method of obtaining isotopes/isomers and an initial design of a device, to include simulation of its release of stored energy from the isotope/isomer and generation and storage of power as a battery. Develop a Phase II plan.

PHASE II: Identify key optimal isotopes/isomers for various applications. Develop a prototype nuclear battery that has energy density greater than current chemically stored energy systems. Conduct laboratory tests to MIL spec S9310-AQ-SAF-010 [Ref 6] and demonstrations to evaluate performance of various configurations appropriate for different applications.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Long-term demonstration of nuclear battery technology to power a laptop computer or other equivalent device over three to six months is the goal of this Phase. Design packaging that takes into consideration safety and environmental regulations defined in MIL spec S9310-AQ-SAF-010 [Ref 6] and minimizes cost, size, and weight while matching or exceeding current standards for chemical energy storage systems being used by Department of Defense or commercial entities. Commercialization could include use in cell phone, portable electronics, commercial satellites, and all computer technologies.


1. Litz, M.S. and Merkel, G. "Controlled extraction of energy from nuclear isomers." Proceedings of the 24th Army Science Conference, November 29-December 2, 2005.

2. Carroll, J. J., Litz, M. S., Netherton, K. A., Henriquez, S. L., Pereira, N. R., Burns, D. A., and Karamian, S. A. "Nuclear Structure and Depletion of Nuclear Isomers Using Electron Linacs." AIP Conf. Proc. 1525, 586, 2013.

3. Chiara, C. J., Carroll, J. J., Carpenter, M. P., et al. "Isomer depletion as experimental evidence of nuclear excitation by electron capture." Nature 554(7691):216-218, February 2018.

4. Langley, J., Litz, M., Russo, J., Ray Jr., W. "Design of Alpha-Voltaic Power Source Using Americium-241 (241Am) and Diamond with a Power Density of 10 mW/cm3." ARL Technical Report, ARL-TR-8189, October 2017.

5. Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board; “Committee on State of Molybdenum-99 Production and Utilization and Progress Toward Eliminating Use of Highly Enriched Uranium;” Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 Oct 28.

6. Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. NAVSEA TM-S9310-AQ-SAF-010, First Revision. “Technical Manual for Batteries, Navy Lithium Safety Program Responsibilities and Procedures.” 19 August 2004.

KEYWORDS: Isotope; Isomer; Nuclear Battery; Energy; Excited states; Protons; Neutrons


Sarwat Chappell




Quentin Saulter




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