A diamond battery made from nuclear waste could last more than 5,000 YEARS
A battery crafted from a new man-made diamond could last for more than 5,000 years, according to new research.
Scientists created the radioactive diamond batteries by converting nuclear waste.
The batteries would be ideal for powering equipment that needs to run reliably for a long time, including pacemakers, drones, satellites and spacecraft.
They say the breakthrough could simultaneously help to the solve the problems of nuclear waste, clean electricity generation and battery life, say the researchers.
Unlike the majority of electricity generation technologies, which use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond produces a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.
‘There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation,’ said Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University of Bristol’s Interface Analysis Centre.
‘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.’
The researchers created a prototype ‘diamond battery’ using radioactive isotope Nickel-63 as the radiation source.
They are now working on improving the efficiency of the device.
To do this, they are using carbon-14, a radioactive version of carbon, which is generated in graphite blocks used to moderate the reaction in nuclear power plants.
The carbon-14 is concentrated at the surface of these blocks, making it possible to process it to remove the majority of the radioactive material.
‘Carbon-14 was chosen as a source material because it emits a short-range radiation, which is quickly absorbed by any solid material,’ explained Dr Neil Fox from the University’s School of Chemistry.
‘This would make it dangerous to ingest or touch with your naked skin, but safely held within 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.’
When compared to current battery technologies, the diamond batteries have a relatively low power level.
However, their long life means that they could revolutionise the powering of devices over long time scales.
While the actual amount of carbon-14 in each battery has yet to be decided, one battery, containing 1g of carbon-14, would deliver 15 Joules per day, say the researchers.
This is less than a standard alkaline AA battery.
These are designed for relatively short-term use with an energy storage rating of 700J/g.
If operated continuously, this would run out in 24 hours.
Carbon-14 has a half-life – the time it takes for its radioactivity to fade to half its initial potency – of 5,730 years.
This means a battery built in 2016 could run on full power until the year 7746.
‘The device would continue to lose power following the radioactive decay rate,’ Professor Scott told MailOnline.
‘Hence after 5,730 years, the device would reach 50 per cent power, after 11,000 years it would reach 25 per cent power and so on’.