Nuclear batteries are a class of power sources that harvest energy from decaying radioactive isotopes to generate electricity for powering sensors and electronics. They are well known in the fields of space exploration and implantable medical devices, but are not widely known to micro or nano-technologists in general. Nuclear batteries are compared against chemical sources of energy applicable to small-scale systems, including energy harvesting prototypes and a mm-scale commercial lithium battery, utilizing the metrics of volumetric power and energy density. Nuclear batteries benefit from orders of magnitude more energy density than power sources derived from chemical reactions, however they also have orders smaller power density. For some sensor applications, nuclear batteries enable capabilities not possible with chemical energy sources, and examples are discussed.

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