Micro & Nanotech
Direct Charge Radioisotope Activation and Power Generation for Microelectromechanical Systems
Inventors: Amit Lal, James Blanchard, Douglass Henderson, Hui Li
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing an electrical power generator that has several advantages over conventional power sources for microsystems.
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have the potential to revolutionize modern sensing systems. The circuits and sensors that make up these systems have been successfully miniaturized; however, the power sources needed to make the systems autonomous are still quite large in comparison. For example, the smallest conventional batteries are still much larger than microsystems, severely limiting the size of the overall device. Thus, there is a need for a power source that can be integrated with the mechanical and electronic components of microstructures to make totally autonomous microsystems.
UW-Madison researchers have developed an electrical power generator that has several advantages over conventional power sources for microsystems. Specifically, the energy carried by particles emitted by radioactive decay is captured and converted to mechanical potential energy that is stored in an elastically deformable element. The energy can be used to activate other mechanical parts directly or can be converted to electrical energy.
- Power source for MEMS
- Low cost
- Reliable energy source
- Miniaturization of energy source for MEMS device
- Very long-lifetime operation
- Very high energy density
- Can provide output voltages at levels suitable for driving conventional integrated circuit electronics
- Does not require thermal insulation
- Requires little control complexity
- Does not need to operate at high internal temperatures