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Investigation of Electrical Power Degradation in Beta Photovoltaic (BetaPV) and Beta Voltaic (BetaV) Power Sources Using (63)Ni and (147)Pm


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Radioisotope power sources are attractive due to their power delivery capability that spans decades and comes from the long half-lives of beta (beta)-emitting isotopes. Further advantages in combat are their low mass and low volume compared with chemical power sources. Damage to wide-band-gap semiconductors has been measured for high-flux-space applications. Less effort has been put into characterizing damage from lower-flux environments. Material damage is reported for two configurations. The electrical outputs from indium gallium phosphide beta-photovoltaic cells with an initial exposure of 50 mCi of (63)Ni nickel (99-year half-life) have been measured over a period of 19 months. The total energy conversion efficiency for this geometry is only 0.2 percent, and the electrical output is compared with the isotope decay over time. No measurable damage is measured within calculated statistical variation. Additionally, the electrical outputs from silicon carbide beta-voltaic (betaV) cells with an initial exposure of 46 mCi of (147)Pm promethium (2.62-year half-life) have been measured over a period of 2.3 months. Initial results show the beta-voltaic cell half-life to be 0.88 year, reduced significantly from the 2.6-year half-life of (147)Pm alone.



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