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Penny-size nuclear battery keeps going and going

University of Missouri scientists are developing a nuclear battery the size of a penny that could hold a million times more charge than chemical batteries.

University of Missouri

Scientists at the University of Missouri are developing a small nuclear battery that they say can hold a million times more charge than standard batteries.

The radioisotope battery, being developed by Jae Kwon of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and other researchers, is the size and thickness of a penny.

That makes it smaller than nuclear batteries used in space and military applications. Kwon says it might shrink to less than the thickness of a human hair if the right materials are used.

The battery is designed to drive micro/nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS). Such devices include labs on a chip, and biological and chemical sensors.

The nuclear battery produces power from charged particles released by radioactive decay. It also uses a liquid semiconductor material, rather than a solid one, to minimize damage to the battery.

Kwon said the technology is safe. "Nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pacemakers, space satellites and underwater systems," he noted.

The team has applied for a provisional patent on the battery.