Radio-luminescence is a phenomena that causes a material to give off light when excited by a source of radiation. A self-glowing paint was developed in the early 1900’s, made from a Radium salt (radium barium carbonate), a fluorescent material (zinc sulfide) and a binder (linseed oil). This material was used for decades to make watch dials glow in the dark. During World War 2, it was used to make whole instrument panels glow in aircraft used for night missions.
In the 1970’s, experiments began by painting this material on the newly developed “photovoltaic cells”. With a series of solar cells wired together and painted with Radium Paint, the solar cells produced electricity continuously. All experiments along these lines were successful!
One simple configuration consisted of a group of solar cells covered in Radium Paint, stacked back to back and encased in a thin layer of lead foil, that produced enough electricity to power a small light bulb for 3 years. All experimental research along these lines ended when the Radium Paint was withdrawn from the market in the 1970’s.
This method of making electricity from nuclear material is vastly safer than a fission reactor, and no long “half-life” materials are ever produced.
For more information on radio-luminescence based on the use of Radium, please visit the following links:
After the Radium paint was withdrawn from the market, all research in this field switched to the use of Tritium, as the beta particle exciter. Over the last 15 years, Tritium powered self-luminous signs have quietly come into common use. A simple Google search for “tritium exit signs” demonstrates the point.
More recently, attempts are beginning again to mate a self-glowing light source, powered by Tritium, with a photo-voltaic cell, to make a safe, solid-state power supply that operates on these principles. One company in Wisconsin has filed patents for a method to encapsulate Tritium and a family of high light output phosphors to produce a thin, plastic sheet of material that glows brightly for 15 years. Early estimates suggest that the power density of this type of power supply could be quite high, with over 2kw/cubic foot within the realm of possibility.
For more information on this technology, please follow these links:
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