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Britain to build first Americium space battery
by Simon Druker
Washington DC (UPI) Dec 9, 2021

The British government is collaborating to build the world's first-ever space battery powered by the element Americium-241.

The country's National Nuclear Laboratory and the UK Space Agency made the announcement Friday.

Americium is a man-made radioactive metal that is solid under normal conditions. The metal is produced when plutonium absorbs neutrons in nuclear reactors or during nuclear weapons tests. Americium-241 is the most common isotope of the element.

Atomic space batteries are also known as Radioisotope Power Systems and release heat as the radioactivity within them decays.

The batteries work continually for decades, without the need for maintenance for several years, making them suitable for long-distance space travel.

The batteries are considered "mission critical technologies" by space agencies around the world, the UK Space Agency said in a statement.

All of NASA's Apollo missions had an atomic battery attached, as has every rover that has gone to Mars.

The move comes amid a growing push to secure sources for such technologies amid global supply chain issues. Traditionally, spacecraft have been powered by Plutonium-238, a radioisotope produced only in the United States with a limited supply capacity. They have also been produced in Russia, with that source no longer available.

"For the past 50 years space missions have used Plutonium-238 to stop spacecrafts from freezing but it is in very limited supply. At NNL we have identified significant reserves of Americium-241, a radioisotope with similar properties to Plutonium-238 but game-changing potential for the U.K.'s space ambitions," NLL account director Tim Tinsley said in a statement.

The government hopes the major investment will drive innovation in radiochemistry and open a new market for the country's space sector.

The work is being jointly funded by the two agencies and will take place at a new $23.3 million laboratory. The next-generation facility is located in Cumbria in Northwest England and produces an independent supply of the space batteries.

"Being able to offer a globally unique supply of Americium-241 will encourage investment and unlock growth opportunities for all sorts of U.K. industries looking to explore nuclear energy," U.K. Science Minister George Freeman said in a statement.

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Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com

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New power supply with a lifetime of up to 50 years
Karlsruhe, Germany (SPX) Dec 06, 2022
Switching power supplies are omnipresent in our daily life, may it be in households, offices, or industry. They convert the alternating current supplied into direct current for smartphones, laptops, charging stations of e-cars, and logistics and computing centers. However, conventional power supplies usually have to be exchanged after nine years of permanent operation. Digital Power Systems (DPS), a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), has now developed and tested power supplies wit ... read more

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