One of the staunchest and strongest arguments against nuclear energy is the problem of radioactive waste disposal and the possible catastrophic threats it poses in case something goes awry. But it seems as though these scientists from the University of Bristol Cabot Institute have finally found a solution while creating a prospect for free energy through their lab-made diamond which can generate electricity made from upcycled radioactive waste!
Nuclear power plants using radioactive uranium splits the material using nuclear fission, where atoms are split to generate heat and this heat is used to vaporize water into steam and move the electricity-generating turbines.
But while the radioactive uranium is a powerful heating agent, the dangerous radioactive waste is a real headache, which is ultimately deposited in the housed in graphite core. This nuclear contamination is then ‘safely’ stored away to wait out its radioactivity, which would take nearly 5,730 years just to reach its half life!
But these scientists have devised a way to increase the temperature of the radioactive graphite, carbon-14, that will release most of the radioactivity as a gas. This gas is then placed under high temperatures and low pressures which turns it into a man-made diamond.
But these are no ordinary diamonds as well since placing them near a radioactive field leads to the creation of a small electrical current. The researchers have enclosed the “diamond battery” in a non-radioactive diamond case which helps in absorbing the harmful emissions while increasing the generation of electricity and making the battery nearly 100 percent efficient.
‘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.’
Is this the future of free energy?
The nuclear diamond battery has tremendous potential to replace every other source of energy since it has an astonishing life span and a half-life of 7746 years! Tom Scott, a materials science professor at Cabot Institute, spoke on the prospect,
‘We envision these batteries to be used in situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries. 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’.
As the world is moving towards electric technologies, finding clean sources and storage of power is becoming more and more important. From planes, to satellites, cars and spacecrafts, everything could be boosted with the help of a long lasting battery. The diamond battery can also be used in devices like pacemakers and artificial pancreas, thus finding great potential in the world of medical sciences as well.
Besides providing infinite source of electricity, the technique also promises to be an incredible way to treat and dispose radioactive waste, which is becoming an increasing concern for the world. Just to put it the crisis in context, US alone has amassed over 76,430 metric tons (84,250 tons) of this waste in merely 40 years!
This sustainable and clean energy alternate almost seems like a godsend, and as Scott puts it,
“no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.”
The researchers have also been asking the public on the twitter to suggest the uses of these batteries with the hashtag #diamondbattery.
Watch the video below to learn more about the diamond battery.