Nuclear Powered Arduboy in the future?

I saw this instructable today describing how to use phosphorescent tritium vials, solar cells, and a thin-film solid-state battery to power a gameboy. Granted, it’s not exactly practical (1 month of charging = 30 minutes gameplay), but it’s a very neat proof-of-concept! All I’m wondering is how long it’ll take us to make more efficient nuclear generator cells like these :thinking: and how well they could power an arduboy. It wouldn’t exactly fit in your wallet anymore, but it would be pretty great to have an arduboy that generates its own power! I might experiment a bit with these types of generators soon. The half-life of tritium is about 12 years so if it could efficiently be charged by these generator cells, you wouldn’t have to charge it for quite some time!

Of course, tritium has very low-energy beta emissions, meaning that while it does send out electrons that are capable of ionizing other atoms, they can only travel about 6mm instead of their usual meter or more. This is why very sensitive solar cells and batteries are needed.

Cutting out the intermediate beta->phosphorescent light->solar cell roundabout power generation would do a lot to make the system more efficient as I’m sure the efficiency must be very low (even the most efficient solar cells are around 25% and multiplied by the efficiency of phosphorescence must be even lower than that). Another kink I remember reading from that project was low enough self discharge rechargeable cells/supercaps are apparently more difficult to find than I would’ve thought.

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there is a way to DIY RTG but not so easy to get fuel for it: Plutonium-238, Curium-244 or Strontium-90

maybe the hydrogen cell powering is the more real alternate


Presumably that’s for the flux capacitor?
I think a friend of mine knows a few Libyans. :P

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I don’t know when I’ll next get chance to use that joke.)


It looks like there’s been some success in the past few years with Americium-241 for RTGs, which could be quite promising not just for small-scale power generation but larger as well since Americium-241 is produced as nuclear waste and is the most common isotope of Am, with a half-life of over 400 years. Though it does require decent shielding and the power density is the lowest of the options available, meaning more material is needed for Am than the others to get the same output power.

Hydrogen cells do have a certain appeal to them but the issue I’m always finding is that I don’t exactly have a separated hydrogen source, and if I produce hydrogen through electrolysis, it kind of defeats the purpose of using it as a greener electrical fuel source. Unless there’s something I’m missing here.

This might be a crazy idea, but would the released oxygen be able to power a turbine?

At the very least the water probably could with the right set-up, but it might not be practical/efficient at low volumes of water. I only know of it working for notably high volumes of water.

Unfortunately the only other things I could think of (biomass to hydrogen and methane pyrolysis) would be very hard to DIY from what I gather.

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When you started the OP with tritium and photovoltaic cells, “green” energy was not the first motivation I would have associated with the idea! I don’t know of many forms of portable electrical energy that you could say are very green. My best guess would be to use e.g. a wind up or hand cranked magnet and coil generator. If you were concerned about the green credentials of a supercapacitor, then maybe a flywheel would be more appropriate to maintain / smooth power output over time!

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Hmm. it should be possible, I think. Oxygen can be compressed and separating it from hydrogen during electrolysis is extremely easy. A bubbler with vinyl tubing can be added to the HHO generator, so that the gas can be filtered and stored. If we add a reservoir for the oxygen to fill up, we could then connect the reservoir’s output to power the turbine at a more consistent rate than the bubbles themselves. Much like a capacitor.

the main problem of all traditional “green” power sources is a battery. it’s producing (and its components mining, like lithium and cobalt for example) and especially battery recycling is not at all a green story ))

windmills and solar panels, even equipped with modern high-capacity batteries for accumulating electricity, are not able to provide a stable supply of electricity for a long time and require reserve capacities in the form of traditional power plants (coal, gas, nuclear power).
it is also necessary to take into account that batteries require regular replacement, there are still no reliable technologies for their processing and the release of useful components (they are simply burned or buried in the ground)
and there are not so many lithium and cobalt on our planet)

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Flywheel would definitely be interesting! Though the reason I use green here when referring to these methods, despite the manufacturing costs, nuclear energy is the greenest source of energy available, as it takes advantage of natural entropy. Now we can get into semantics about exactly which types of nuclear generators do exactly how much damage to the environment, but on a small-scale, especially for something that only uses a few tritium vials, they’re a vast improvement to things like replaceable batteries and most energy companies and grids in place currently that use a composite of different generators to provide you with electricity. There are greener forms of nuclear than others, but I still think nuclear is the way to go in ways of harm reduction on the planet.

especially this way :slight_smile:

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I get that, however I think running off just nuclear rather than the composite coal, gas, nuclear that is provided to most wall sockets, would be neat! While it might not seem that green production-wise, these kinds of cells should last as long as their half-life, which is a lot longer than most cells!

I guess the trick here would be finding more efficient means to store low-levels of energy being released by the beta particles, maybe skip the photovoltaic reaction altogether… Time to break out the graphene :rofl:

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Right? How incredible would that be?

i believe - absolutely incredible )

You can power a Arduboy from a power adapter (wall wart), which itself is powered by nuclear power plants.
You can do that today. I don’t see what’s wrong about it.
Having a portable nuclear power plant, however, is another story. But I think a RTG is not something that’s impossible to do.

Most power grids are on-demand, pulling from a variety of resources including nuclear. However, lots of electricity is still produced by fossil fuels in the US. Chances are high that you are not getting pure nuclear from a power adapter. Besides, that would still be charging a lithium-ion battery, which is a completely different way to produce electricity through a chemical mean, and comes with a litany of issues(degradation, flammability, toxicity, scarcity, etc.). A truly nuclear powered arduboy would probably have to use some sort of photo-electrics, phosphors, nuclear material, and a static power-saving device like very sensitive high precision capacitors, as opposed to the degrading chemical storage of most traditional and popular batteries.

But again, wall power is definitely not 100% nuclear and are powered by lots of dirty generators. For example, Texas (where I currently reside) produces and consumes more electricity than any other state. The power grid is comprised of 47% natural gas, 20% coal, 20% wind, 10% nuclear, and 1% solar. Source here.

zoom out to the entire United States and the nuclear source actually decreases by a little, at 9% of all energy produced. Petroleum being the primary source at 35%, followed by natural gas at 34%, “renewable energy” at 12%, coal at 10%. Source.

So if you’re in Texas like me, charging any device to 100% from your wall wart will result in 10% charged by nuclear at best. Of course this isnt how grids work in practice, but it’s a good way to think about it from a consumerist perspective.

Nuclear power grids are a big part of the future. But Chances are they’re not the main producer of electricity where you live.

I hope I’ve been able to educate you a little bit on energy consumption! There’s a big big misconception right now that we’re mostly nuclear, and unfortunately that is very rarely the case for any area. It would be awesome if we could do that today, but in practice, very very few people actually can. So what’s wrong about it is that chances are your wall actually isn’t powered much by nuclear, if at all.

Unless you live in France, Belgium, Slovakia or a number of other (mostly European) countries.

But especially if you live in France. (Vive le nucléaire. :P)

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Yes, I understand that it’s the total opposite of that because nuclear have a lot of resistance – especially since the failure of any plant always result in unprecedented scale of mass destruction.
I’m just saying that you CAN power the arduboy via all the stuff, which mean that technically we have nuclear powered arduboys.
The next step is to make a arduboy operate, on its own, forever.

Aw. It’s so easy to just snap a PB-NUK on to it. Except we don’t have one right now.

I would still argue we do not have nuclear powered arduboys yet. If you live in one of the countries that uses mostly or almost entirely nuclear, you could get a nuclear charged arduboy, but at the end of the day you’re still relying on a chemical breakdown from the lithium-ion battery to give you your power.

Never seen or heard of PB-NUKs, are they even real? looks like a fake version of an RTG. RTG would be a somewhat viable method for nuclear power generation, though definitely a difficult engineering issue, there’s a lot more going on in small RTGs than some other methods for nuclear generation, so a lot of thought has to go into it.

Someone else mentioned hydrogen cells earlier, which aren’t nuclear but are very green, and if the electrolysis that produces the HH+O is powered by either solar rays, solar heat, or biomass generators, then the end result would be pretty green without defeating the purpose of moving away from lithium ion and such. It also seems a lot more reachable as a DIY goal. Even biomass generators you don’t exactly need a whole lab or a lot of knowledge about atomic and sub-atomic physics, so it should be more accessible to more people. The question there is form factor and funds, though. Hydrogen cells are still very expensive and often bulky, you know?

They are modeled based on the real SNAP RTGs. If you read the link I posted you will see it.