Diamonds Convert Nuclear Waste into Nuclear Batteries

Saturday, December 3, 2016 - 12:50

Physicists and chemists at the University of Bristol have discovered a way to convert thousands of tons of seemingly worthless nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate a small electric current for longer than the entire history of human civilization.

The batteries would be ideal for powering equipment that needs to run reliably for a long time, including pacemakers, drones, satellites and spacecraft. Researchers believe that the breakthrough could simultaneously help to solve the problems of nuclear waste, clean electricity generation and battery life, Daily Mail reports.

'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.

Researchers estimate that a carbon-based battery would generate 50 percent of its power in 5,730 years. Most likely, the batteries would be used in high-altitude drones, pacemakers, spacecraft and anywhere else replacing the battery is either very cumbersome or impossible.

"We envision these batteries to be used in situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries," says Tom Scott, Professor in Materials. "Obvious applications would be in low-power electrical devices where long life of the energy source is needed, such as pacemakers, satellites, high-altitude drones, or even spacecraft. There are so many possible uses that we're asking the public to come up with suggestions of how they would utilize this technology by using #diamondbattery."

Any practical implementations are likely a long way off, and there are some conspicuous problems. Diamond is expensive, so it might not be feasible to convert large amounts of nuclear waste into batteries. That is assuming the technology works as well as intended, too. Still, it raises hope that the leftovers from nuclear reactors will not just sit and pose a threat.

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