Radioisotope thermoelectric generator

A radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG, RITEG), sometimes referred to as a radioisotope power system (RPS), is a type of nuclear battery that uses an array of thermocouples to convert the heat released by the decay of a suitable radioactive material into electricity by the Seebeck effect. This type of generator has no moving parts.

Diagram of an RTG used on the Cassini probe

RTGs have been used as power sources in satellites, space probes, and uncrewed remote facilities such as a series of lighthouses built by the Soviet Union inside the Arctic Circle. RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situations that need a few hundred watts (or less) of power for durations too long for fuel cells, batteries, or generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not practical. Safe use of RTGs requires containment of the radioisotopes long after the productive life of the unit. The expense of RTGs tends to limit their use to niche applications in rare or special situations. Because they don't have moving parts or need solar energy, RTGs are ideal for remote and harsh environments for extended periods of time. Because RTGs have no moving parts, there is no risk of parts wearing out or malfunctioning.


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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Radioisotope thermoelectric generator, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.