It may not be as far fetched as it sounds. Battery technology has not
really changed much in the last 150 years. Batteries are still just
large bags of chemicals which are typically heavy and short lived.
Research groups at Cornell University and the University of
Wisconsin-Madison have been working on a way around this power-source
roadblock: harvesting the incredible amount of energy released
naturally by tiny bits of radioactive material.Of course, there is a long way to go before the products hit the
market, but the challenges are not those that you would first think of.
For example, safety in-situ is not a issue: the relativly low
energy particles from Polonium-210 will not even penetrate the skin.
Instead the problems now are the efficient conversion of the
radioactive energy into electrical power. Carrying on the Polonium
example, 1 cubic millimeter in a nuclear microbattery could produce 50
milliwatts of electric power for more than four months. With that level
of power, it would be possible to run a simple microprocessor and a
handful of sensors.
You can guess who else is involved: Researchers recently
started working with DARPA to boost the efficiency to 20 percent. You
can bet that the defence opportunities are huge: DARPA has a special
program dedicated to researching these technologies: Radio Isotope
Read the full research article at the IEEE online magazine, Spectrum.