NASA’s JPL hopes to improve nuclear batteries used on spacecraft
Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) have been the power source for many of the most ambitious exploration missions in NASA’s history, powering spacecraft in areas too remote, or too impractical, for solar panels to provide sufficient electricity. A new development to this power-generating workhorse may soon substantially improve the capabilities of the RTG, possibly benefiting both interplanetary missions and daily life here on Earth.
In an Oct. 13, 2016, release, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) outlined the potential to increase the efficiency of the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), and make it hardier in the process.
“NASA needs reliable long-term power systems to advance exploration of the Solar System,” said Jean-Pierre Fleurial, supervisor for the thermal energy conversion research and advancement group at JPL.
To that end, JPL engineers look to make use of a class of materials known as skutterudites. These minerals…
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