Thanks to a reader for sending a link to a link from the Tech Briefs website which includes a report from NASA’s Langley Research Center about a new “multi-layer nuclear thermionic avalanche cell” which is claimed to be “a compact, reliable, and continuous electrical source with high power density capable of long-life operation without refueling.
From the article:
“Innovators at the NASA Langley Research Center have developed the Multi-Layer Nuclear Thermionic Avalanche Cell (NTAC), a novel electrical generator, which transforms nuclear gamma-ray photon energy directly to electric power by liberating intra-band atomic inner shell electrons.
The invention consists of several NTAC layers arranged in a radially concentric series separated by a vacuum gap space. It is comprised of a gamma-ray source and various layers of emitters, collectors, and insulators. Ideal emitter materials include elements with high atomic numbers, while ideal collector and insulator materials include elements with low atomic numbers.”
More information can be found at this link:
On the NASA website is this description of the technology:
The Multi-Layer NTAC is comprised of a gamma-ray source and various layers of emitters, collectors, and insulators. Ideal emitter materials include elements with high atomic numbers, while ideal collector and insulator materials include elements with low atomic numbers. A high-energy gamma-ray (tens of keV to MeV) is used to liberate a large number of intra-band, inner-shell electrons from atoms within the emitter material for power generation through the primary interactions of photoelectric, Compton scattering, photonuclear, and electron/positron pair production processes.
NASA states that the NTAC can run for decades without recharging because the half-life of radioactive materials can be almost a centory. NASA is seeking to interest commercial partners to license this technology in products.