Scientists from the University of Bristol Cabot Institute have developed an ingenious means of converting nuclear power plant waste (76,430 metric tons in the US alone) into sustainable diamond batteries.
They are killing two birds with one stone, thanks to their lab-created diamond that can generate electricity and is made from recycled radioactive waste.
These long-lasting batteries could potentially serve as a clean and safe way to power spacecraft, satellites, and even medical devices, while disposing of toxic nuclear waste in a responsible way that is less environmentally destructive.
In nuclear power plants, radioactive uranium is split in an incredibly energy-intensive process called nuclear fission. When the atoms are split, heat is generated, and that heat then vaporizes water into steam that turns electricity-generating turbines.
A severe downside of this process is the byproduct it leaves behind of dangerous radioactive waste, which ultimately seeps into the graphite core that it is housed in. Today, this nuclear contamination is safely quarantined away until its radioactive potency drops below hazardous levels… and with a half-life of 5,730 years, that takes quite a while.
The scientists found a way to heat the radioactive graphite to release most of the radioactivity in a gaseous form. The gas is subjected to high temperature and low pressures that turn it into a man-made diamond.
When these diamonds are placed near a radioactive field, they generate a small electrical current. The developers enclosed the diamond battery in another non-radioactive diamond to absorb the harmful emissions, which in turn allowed for the generation of even more electricity, making the battery nearly 100 percent efficient.
The nuclear diamond battery has an incredible lifetime on par with the half-life of the nuclear waste it was created from, and will only be half used up by the year 7746. This makes it an ideal power solution for “situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries,” said Tom Scott, a materials science professor at Cabot Institute.
Flight times of planes, satellites, or spacecraft could increase with such an incredibly long-lasting battery. Medical devices like pacemakers and the artificial pancreas could become more reliable, empowering users to live their lives more freely with less inconvenience.
The development also presents an incredibly efficient way to treat radioactive waste. Within the past 40 years, the US has amassed 76,430 metric tons (84,250 tons) of this waste.
Supplying the Earth with electricity is a daunting task even without a focus on sustainability. Now, it looks like experts are on the right track with this nuclear-powered diamond battery. It’s almost like the holy grail of electricity generation, or as Scott puts it, “no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.”
* This article was automatically syndicated from Signs of the Times.