Portal:Spaceflight/Selected article/Week 45 2006

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Cutdrawing of an GPHS-RTG.jpg

A radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) is a simple electrical generator which obtains its power from radioactive decay. In such a device, the heat released by the decay of a suitable radioactive material is converted into electricity by the Seebeck effect using an array of thermocouples. RTGs can be considered as a type of battery and have been used as power sources in satellites, space probes and unmanned remote facilities. RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmanned or unmaintained situations needing a few hundred watts or less of power for durations too long for fuel cells, batteries and generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not viable.