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'30 Year Laptop Battery' is Unscientific Myth 322

An anonymous reader wrote to mention the wonderful news: "A research group funded by U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is developing a battery which can provide continuous power to your laptop for 30 years! Betavoltaic power cells are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source..." Except, not so much. ZDNet's Mixed Signals blog with Rupert Goodwins explains why (as always) if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: "The sort of atomic structures that generate power when bombarded with high energy electrons are the sort that tend to fall apart when bombarded with high energy electrons. While solar cells have the same problem, it's to a much lesser extent. There's a lot of research into making materials that don't suffer so much, but it remains a serious issue ... while it's true that a tritium-powered battery will eventually turn into an inert, safe lump of nothing much, and while it's also true that a modest amount of shielding will keep the radioactivity within the the battery the while, there's the small problem that if you break the battery during its life the nasties come out."

Every little picofarad has a nanohenry all its own. -- Don Vonada