Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste into Clean, Long Lived Diamond Batteries

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Nuclear waste had always been a pain in the neck, lacking a safe way of disposal. However, with the new discovery, our perception to nuclear waste will be changed. Nuclear waste will now no longer be a headache to the environment. The physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol developed a man-made diamond, which could generate a small electric current when placed in a radioactive field. The named this discovery as ‘diamond battery’. The researchers assumed that with the diamond battery, the nuclear waste could take the form of clean energy source.

“There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation,” Said professor of materials Tom Scott. “By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”

Electrical energy is often generated by the relative motion between coil and magnet or magnetic field. However, in this method, there will be no motion involved and no emission generated. Just with an enclosure of short-range radioactive material inside a man-made diamond, we can generate a small electric charge. The diamonds themselves are radioactive, so they are given a second non-radioactive diamond coating to act as a radiation shield. Due to the blockade of radiation, the generation of electric charge takes place.

The researchers first used Nickel-63 isotope as a radiation source to develop a prototype for demonstration. However, in order to improve the efficiency of the diamond battery, they are now working on Carbon-14. Carbon-14 is a radioactive version of carbon, which is found on graphite blocks, used for moderating the nuclear reaction.

“Carbon-14 was chosen as a source material because it emits a short-range radiation, which is quickly absorbed by any solid material,” Dr. Neil Fox explained. “This would make it dangerous to ingest or touch with your naked skin, but safely held within the diamond, no short-range radiation can escape. In fact, diamond is the hardest substance known to man, there is literally nothing we could use that could offer more protection.”

The diamond battery offers low power as compared to conventional batteries. However, the longevity of the diamond battery is incomparable; it can last for thousands of years. It was mentioned that the diamond battery with Carbon-14 would take approximately 5730 years to reach 50-percent power. With the low amount of power generation, the diamond battery could not surpass the conventional batteries. However, it suits in the places where low power is required and charging or replacing of convention batteries is challenging. The obvious places can be a pacemaker, satellites, high-altitude drones or even spacecraft.

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The discovery sound pretty amazing, however, the practical application of diamond battery does not seem feasible. The most conspicuous problem encountered would be the cost since the diamond is expensive. The use diamonds to develop a low power battery does not sound witty. However, with this discovery, nuclear waste will no longer sit there posing a threat to humanity.