Building a Better Battery

Loraine Lawson

Sometimes, it occurs to me that the greatest quest isn't the pursuit of knowledge, but the pursuit of a better battery.


Usually, I think of this when - oh, I don't know - I'm trying to focus and I keep hearing a strange voice saying, "Your batteries are running low," which then sends my dog into a fit of hysterical barking.


So, I'm always happy when I read someone is working on this problem.


Currently, it's a DARPA-funded research team at Cornell University. Their goal: Develop betavoltaic batteries. Betavoltaic batteries, in case you didn't know - and I didn't - generate current from radioactive materials that emit electrons.


The team has filed a patent for a design using low-energy beta particles and a structure that looks something like the Parthenon, according to this item from the New Scientist Invention blog, which actually offers a link to the patent application online. It would be able to power something the size of a pacemaker for 20 years.


That's good news for watchmakers, but not good enough for me, since almost everything in my house runs on at least four AA batteries, all of which apparently needed to be replaced about one week ago.

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