at Rochester Institute of Technology's NanoPower Research
Laboratories (NPRL) won $1.2 million from the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of
the U.S. Department of Defense, to develop tiny power
supplies for military use.
This three-year project will improve the efficiency
of alpha voltaic batteries to operate miniature military
devices with sensing and communication abilities.
A team of RIT researchers, led by Ryne Raffaelle,
professor of physics and microsystems engineering
and director of the NPRL, will work in collaboration
with scientists at the NASA Glenn Research Center.
Alpha voltaic batteries use a radioisotope such as
Americium, the substance commonly used in smoke detectors,
coupled with a semiconductor device that acts like
a solar cell to convert alpha energy into usable electricity.
While the use of radioisotopes promises a long-lasting
battery, problems with radiation damage have stalled
this technology for half a century. Damage occurs
from alpha particles emitted by the radioisotope hitting
and degrading the semiconductor and rendering the
Raffaelle's team will use a new application of nanotechnology
materials to protect the semiconductor from radiation
damage. This solution will buffer the semiconductor
with a layer of radiation-tolerant quantum dots-or
granules of semiconductor material-placed on the surface
of the semiconductor to protect it from the harmful
The project will conclude with the full manufacture
of the device and plans for commercial production
with Alpha V Inc.
Contact: Susan Gawlowicz
Rochester Institute of Technology