Booz Allen Hamilton Colloquium: "Can Nuclear Batteries Ever Be a Reality," Prof. Spencer, Morgan St.
Friday, February 22, 2019
3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
1110 Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building
301 405 4471
Can Nuclear Batteries Ever Be a Reality
M. G. Spencer
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Morgan State University
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cornell University (Emeritus)
As the power requirements for electronic circuits have steadily dropped, applications for stand-alone systems with a small form factor, long lifetime and high energy density have arisen. Stand-alone systems such as cardiac pacemakers, medical implants, environmental monitoring, anti-tampering circuits and deep space probes require autonomous power in the range between nanowatts and milliwatts. The energy and power requirements of these new systems are pushing the limits of battery technology. Nuclear power (in the form of radioisotopes) has energy density 3 to 4 orders of magnitude higher than current batteries (which have reached their theoretical limits) and half-life of 10 to 400 years. Radioisotopes of interest emit beta or alpha particles (high-energy electrons or helium 4 ions) and with proper shielding are considered safe. Surprisingly (for many) smoke detectors in the home are based on a radioisotope (Americium 241). Other products based on radioisotopes are currently in production. In this talk, we will explain how radioisotopes can be used to directly produce electrical energy. We will compare the performance of nuclear batteries with current battery technology in some of the most demanding emerging applications. We will also discuss the practical issues for implementation of this technology cost, packaging and safety.
Michael Spencer is Professor of Electrical Engineering, at Morgan State University and Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University. He joined the faculty of Howard University as an assistant professor in 1984. Spencer founded the Materials Science Center for Excellence at Howard in 1984 and served as its director. In 1999, he returned to his alma mater, Cornell University as professor of electrical engineering until 2017. At Cornell served as associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Engineering. Spencer directed the Wide Bandgap Laboratory where he researched semiconductor materials such as SiC and GaN, as well as two-dimensional semiconductors like graphene. He co-founded Widetronix, a company that builds low power long life beta-voltaic batteries. Spencer was a founder of the International Conference on Silicon Carbide and Related Materials Conference that is the premier venue for presenting recent SiC material and device results. Spencer has received the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1985. Spencer has written over 350 publications that have received over 11,000 citations with a h-index of 42 and has also co-authored over twenty-one United States patents.