Researchers have developed a nanomaterial that turns radiation directly into electricity, which could be used to produce a new era of spacecrafts and even Earth-based vehicles powered by high-powered nuclear batteries. These new batteries may allow passenger vehicles to travel for thousands of miles with little or no maintance at a fraction of the cost of gasoline and would even be much superior to Plug-in-Hybrids.
Liviu Popa-Simil, from the Alabama A&M University, developed the material along with his team.
Beginning in the 1960s, the US and Soviet Union used thermoelectric materials that convert heat into electricity to power spacecraft using nuclear fission or decaying radioactive material.
Though dispensing with the steam and turbines makes those systems smaller and less complicated, thermoelectric materials have very low efficiency.
Now, US researchers have developed highly efficient materials that can convert the radiation, not heat, from nuclear materials and reactions into electricity.