Scientists create nuclear batteries using Lab–grown diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds
[Image Courtesy: Empire.com]

Diamonds being the super material on earth has multi-field applications. A recent innovation uses diamond to solve multiple problems of nuclear waste, clean electricity generation and battery life extension, to significant extent.

Nuclear waste is dangerous for the environment and needs to be disposed properly. The isolation and confined safety storage of radioactive nuclear waste is a complicated long term financial commitment. But this new innovation will help solve the problems. Researchers from University of Bristol have found the way, by encapsulating radioactive material into a diamond they have created nuclear batteries thus solving not only the problem of nuclear waste but also that of battery life and clean environmental energy. Carbon 14, a radioactive isotope of carbon, is generated in the graphite blocks which are used as moderators in nuclear power plants to control nuclear reaction. UK currently holds around 95,000 tonnes of graphite blocks. If Carbon 14 from them is extracted for the purpose of nuclear batteries, the cost and challenge of storing such blocks will decrease. Carbon 14 generates short wave radiations which can be absorbed by practically all substances, which is the reason behind choosing it as a source of this battery.

Though for prototype researchers have used Nickel 63 as the radiation source, encapsulated in a Lab-grown diamond, to improve the efficiency of the product they are going to use Carbon 14. Its half life is 5,730 years. That means, the battery will use only half of its power for the first 5,730 years. Hence this innovation is a key to solve battery life problems. Moreover, the material will be encased in the hardest substance known to man, diamond, hence it is 100% safe to use as claimed by the researchers. This battery will be ideal for low power, long lasting applications, where replacing or recharging batteries frequently is not possible. Obvious examples of such applications are Spacecrafts, space stations, satellites, drones and pacemakers.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University of Bristol‘s Interface Analysis Centre said, “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation”.

This innovation will also add new chapters of investment in environment and tough market of nuclear waste recycling.

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