Betavoltaic Technology (Graduate Seminar)

Event Date: February 26, 2014
Speaker: Peter Cabauy, Ph.D.
Type: Graduate Seminar
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: ARMS B071

City Labs, Inc., a Florida corporation, designs, develops, and manufactures proprietary long-life betavoltaic batteries used in defense, electronics, homeland security, and medical device technologies.  Dr. Peter Cabauy and Mr. Denset Serralta, co-founders of City Labs, recognized that chemical (lithium) batteries suffer from significant drawbacks. These batteries are short lived, need to be replaced frequently, are limited to narrow temperature ranges, have explosive and toxic risks, and are generally low in energy density.  Billions of dollars of lithium batteries are sold annually with such limitations.

The City Labs team developed the NanoTritium™ betavoltaic battery, which is a small, reliable, long-life power source capable of continuously working in adverse environments for over 20 years. The Corporation’s technology creates energy through the use of tritium (a radioisotope of hydrogen) that is now safely utilized in many products such as medical tracers, exit signs, watch faces, and gun sights. 

The basic concept of operation for a betavoltaic is shown in the below figure. Beta particles (derived from tritium decay) enter the power source’s semiconductor p-n junction, creating electron-hole pairs (EHP) as they interact with lattice atoms. Typically, a 5.0 KeV beta particle will create nearly a thousand EHPs, and those created in or within a few microns of the intrinsic (or depletion) region contribute to the generated current collected at the contacts. The holes are accelerated to the p-side collector,whereas the electrons are accelerated to the n-side collector. The subsequent open-circuit voltage is proportional to the band-gap energy of the semiconductor material.

Figure 3. Voltaic operation: conversion of radiation into electricty

City Labs’ patented NanoTritium™ technology is recognized by an independent third-party as having the highest reported combination of power- and energy-density for any betavoltaic power source.  Defense agencies and contractors have affirmatively vetted City Labs’ technology for various defense-related applications. In July 2010, City Labs was awarded a $1 million dollar U.S. Air Force contract for development of a betavoltaic power source for the security of defense weapons. It has soldits Generally Licensed batteries to Lockheed Martin, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and other defense agencies. In 2012, City Labs successfully launched the first commercial version of its NanoTritiumTM long-life betavoltaic battery for defense electronics encryption.  Recognizing the superior market potential of affordable high energy-density betavoltaics to power medical devices and sensors, the Corporation has filed patents for an improved higher-power battery that it seeks to refine and manufacture.

Peter Cabauy, PhD is co-founder, Chief Executive Officer and a director of City Labs, Inc. In 2002, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Applied Physics. His thesis work was in Quantum Information Physics at Argonne National Laboratories (ANL), and he co-authored a publication with his thesis advisor, Dr. Paul Benioff, a seminal pioneer in the field of Quantum Computing.  While completing his doctorate, he also worked on a microelectronics research project at a Department of Defense (DOD) Laboratory.  In 2003, he founded and directed the Office of Entrepreneurial Science at Florida International University advising in intellectual property matters, and laying the groundwork for its technology incubator program.  In 2005, Dr. Cabauy co-founded City Labs where his diverse experience in technology entrepreneurship, experimental and theoretical physics has been instrumental in both structuring the company and developing its product line.