UK scientists generate electricity from rare element to power future space missions

A team of scientists led by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), working with the University of Leicester, have extracted americium from some of the UK’s plutonium stockpile and used the heat generated from this highly radioactive material to generate enough electric current to light up a small lightbulb within a special shielded area in NNL’s Central Laboratory in Cumbria.

The breakthrough means potential use of americium in radioisotope power systems for missions which would use the heat from americium pellets to power spacecraft heading into deep space or to challenging environments on planet surfaces where other power sources, such as solar panels, no longer function. Read more