Zeno Power says it has successfully completed its first demonstration of a new type of radioisotope heat source that could be used to generate off-grid power in settings ranging from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the moon.
The demonstration — performed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. — took advantage of the energy provided by the radioactive decay of strontium-90. Zeno said its tests confirmed that the company’s technology can increase the specific power of its heat source compared with previously available strontium-90 heat sources.
Zeno uses radioisotope heat sources as the building blocks for its power-generating systems, which are designed to convert constant thermal energy into electricity. Strontium-90, which is typically created as a byproduct of nuclear fission, is an abundant fuel for such systems — but existing strontium-based power systems tend to be bulky. Zeno’s design could generate more power with less bulk, opening the way for a wider range of applications.
The work at PNNL involved radioactive and non-radioactive activities, including chemical processing and fuel fabrication, materials handling and heat source characterization. The test data will support further development of heat sources.