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Infinity Power Developing Safer Nuclear Battery

ENERGY: DoD-Funded Co. Takes New Approach, Preps Fundraiser

OCEANSIDE – After a decade of developing a new version of a nuclear battery, Infinity Power is planning its first public fundraise in hopes of bringing a product to market in two years.

CEO Jae Kwon began exploring the idea of a safer, more-efficient nuclear battery while a professor at the University of Missouri 18 years ago and got some early recognition before forming his company in 2013.

Jae Kwon
CEO
Infinity Power

A graduate of USC, he returned to Southern California in 2021 to be around similar tech companies and to find a larger pool of talented people working in his field. Since then, his company has developed a battery he said is safer than the most successful nuclear battery in use now, while also being more efficient.

The U.S. Department of Defense has taken an interest in his technology, and so far, he has received more than $3.4 million in Small Business Innovation Research grants, the government program to stimulate technological innovations.

“They want to have a long-lasting power source for their missions,” he said about the Defense Department’s interest. The funding has come in two phases, with the first for early-stage technology and the second to increase a company’s readiness level.

Kwon said he is preparing to launch a $5 million fundraiser soon, and then will seek government approval for sales of his battery. The company already produces coin cell batteries for testing, although they cannot be purchased yet.

A New Approach to Nuclear Batteries

A nuclear battery contains an unstable element that decays and emits an energetic particle such as a photon, proton, electron, neutron or alpha. The battery harnesses energy from the radioactive element isotope, or radioisotope.

NASA uses plutonium as an unstable element in the nuclear batteries it uses for deep-space missions. The battery’s technical name is radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), meaning it harnesses heat from plutonium.

Kwon said the RTGs are an example of a successful nuclear battery, but there’s a reason why you won’t find them in the battery section of your local hardware store.

Plutonium is the main ingredient in atomic bombs, and the government restricts all public access to the element to prevent its misuse.

But plutonium is not the only unstable element, and there have been other attempts to create nuclear batteries without it, with limited success.

“In this field there have been inherent problems historically,” Kwon said. “Many people have tried to utilize new technology. Except for the successful example of NASA, many have failed.”

The failures happened because the radioactive source in the battery damages the crystal structure of the semiconductor over time, he said.

Infinity Power is taking a different approach. Rather than using RTG, he has developed a method of capturing energy through chemistry.

“Our method is an electrochemical energy conversion, which is a new approach,” he said. “Nobody ever tried this kind of thing. We are the first to invent this method and accomplish that much high efficiency.”

The company also uses nickel-63 as an unstable element, which is much weaker than plutonium.

Through electrochemical energy conversion, however, the batteries have significant power. While a plutonium nuclear battery captures only about 10%t of the element’s potential energy, Infinity Power has demonstrated an efficiency rate of 60%.

“That’s the big difference,” Kwon said. “That’s why we’ve gotten lots of attention.”

Nuclear Battery Uses

While it will be at least two years before Infinity Power has batteries to sell, its website shows several potential uses for their technology, such as battery packs for deep sea exploration, space exploration and isolated industrial sites far from power grids.

“We’ve been talking with many companies already about what they need,” Kwon said.

“They’ll probably ask us to make a custom design battery. In those cases, they most likely will be directly delivered to customers.”

Kwon sees implanted medical devices such as pacemakers as another use for their long-life battery, which potentially would never have to be surgically removed and replaced.
The technology is the culmination of almost 20 years of pursuit for Kwon, who began his research while a professor in Missouri.

“I had been looking for a nice research project, and I started working on a nuclear battery idea in 2006,” he said. “I kind of invented an interesting nuclear battery idea at the time.”

Kwon developed a concept for a nuclear battery with a radioisotope composite semiconductor in 2009, which he said earned him awards at the largest electronics conference in his field, and he launched his company four years later.

The Infinity Power battery can be used in many devices, but Kwon doesn’t see it completely disrupting the market.

“We’re not saying we’re going to replace all lithium batteries in the world,” he said. “That’s not our goal. But for people who really need a long-life battery, that’s the place we can help.”

Infinity Power
FOUNDED: 2013
CEO: Jae W. Kwon
HEADQUARTERS: Oceanside
BUSINESS: Battery technology
EMPLOYEES: 3
REVENUE: Pre revenue
WEBSITE: https://www.infinitypower.energy/
SOCIAL IMPACT: The battery has potential to be used in pacemakers and never be replaced, and it could power deep-space and ocean exploration.
NOTABLE: The Department of Defense already has shown interest in the technology.

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