Ian Hamilton had an idea for a nuclear battery the size of a small coffee can that will operate continuously for two years and be lightweight enough for soldiers to carry on months or years-long missions. He grew the idea into a startup company, Atlas Energy Systems, and attracted early funding while a student at Purdue University. But graduation threatened to pull the plug on his dreams of entrepreneurship.
“I turn spent nuclear fuel into energy via radioisotope plasma generation to power the battery,” he said. “I couldn’t just go build a nuclear accelerator in my garage.”
There are only a few places in the world with that type of equipment and gaining access to them can be time-consuming and costly. Until the U.S. Department of Energy launched a hybrid incubator/accelerator at Argonne National Laboratory last year.