Imagine a nuclear battery in a little box that uses decaying isotopes to generate cheap and clean electricity around the clock for decades with no combustion, fission, or noise. It just sits silently and emits constant power.
This far-fetched idea is becoming real. Vaulting advances in materials sciences are unlocking technologies that radically change the cost calculus of radioisotopes. Companies are springing to life with prototypes that could be on the market before the next general election.
As it happens, the UK is the world leader in the rarified field of isotope batteries. A British-Australian start-up with research operations in Cumbria has found a way to harness gamma rays from the radioactive decay of cobalt-60. Infinite Power thinks it can cut costs to levels that take your breath away. “It is the cheapest source of electricity on the planet,” says Robert McLeod, the chief executive.
I can’t actually imagine anyone allowing dispersed C-60 floating around the countryside.
We have had the occasional incident where a piece – from a cancer treatment machine – ends up in a scrap yard and kills people. It’s a gamma ray emitter which is why we use it as the radiation source to burn up cancers, also what makes the battery work. Whether it’s actually a good idea or not it’s just not gonna happen – public opinion just isn’t going to allow it in car battery chargers which is one of the suggested uses.