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Advanced Manufacturing

Testing Methods for Increasing Betavoltatic Battery Power for Medical and Defense Applications

Company Name: Widetronix, Inc.
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: Ithaca, NY
Website: www.widetronix.com
Email: jgreene@widetronix.com
Award Amount: $250,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

CRITICAL NEED

The standard batteries consumers use today rely on metal and chemical reactions to store energy. These batteries are either disposed after use or recharged from an electrical source. For applications where recharging is not an option – including for defense and medical applications - betavoltaic batteries offer another choice. These batteries rely on isotopes of hydrogen – in the form of tritium gas – which trickles energy to a semiconductor. Betavoltaic batteries can last a very long time and for that reason they are used in deep space probes such as the Voyagers, in industrial and defense applications that require long-term operation in harsh conditions, as well as in medical devices, including the first pacemakers.

Increasing the power derived from these batteries could widen their application for the next generation of physiological monitoring and therapeutic devices. Widetronix’s betavoltaic micro power sources have the potential to reach a power level of five to 10 microwatts per square centimeter, a power density that is higher than traditional battery technology. For this project, Widetronix will work with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to optimize the integration of tritium into its betavoltaics in order to maximize the current output of these devices. LLNL has the combined expertise in material science, hydrogen storage, and radioactive materials handling required to do this work, and optimizing these batteries will allow the company to accelerate prototyping and complete required studies on test chips and betavoltaic devices.


PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES

Betavoltaics enjoy much higher power density than traditional electrochemical batteries. They are extremely small, offer high reliability in extremely difficult environmental conditions, and are safe once properly packaged in standard semiconductor materials. Widetronix’s technology relies on materials such as silicon carbide which offer greater efficiency for battery applications. Widetronix is well-positioned to work with LLNL to license the associated technology in order to scale it up for manufacturing levels.


POTENTIAL IMPACT

Economy:

Small medical devices are a growing market and perfecting battery technology can foster further innovation in the healthcare and medical device industry. As with pacemakers, devices that integrate with our bodies have the potential to vastly improve public health outcomes, helping people lead healthier, more productive lives.

Environment:

Enhancing betavoltaic battery safety is important for public health and safety reasons, It’s important, for instance, for semiconductors to efficiently absorb radioactive energy from isotope sources and never break or leak.

Security:

Betavoltaics are used in military applications where recharging is impossible or undesirable and in harsh conditions. In particular, betavoltaic batteries are used to power sensors and equipment monitors and can also be used to protect sensitive data stored in electronic equipment.


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