Just when you thought the next best thing in battery innovation was supercapacitor technology… Scientists from the University of Bristol Cabot have discovered a way to generate electricity from radioactive waste.
With a process known as nuclear fission, scientists can generate heat by splitting the atoms of radioactive uranium – that heat eventually vaporizes water into steam that turns into electricity. Unfortunately, the end result of this chain of event creates hazardous radioactive waste, which according to a recent Futurism article, deposits in the graphite core that it’s housed in.
By harnessing the radioactive graphite gas during the heating process and exposing it to light temperature and low pressure, Bristol Cabot scientists were able to create an energy-producing diamond. If placed strategically near a radioactive field, these diamonds produce a small electric current. Talk about finding an energy source in the least likely of places – a diamond in the rough so to speak.
In order to absorb the remaining harmful emissions, developers enclosed the diamond battery in another non-radioactive diamond. By encasing the carbon-14 diamond inside another diamond, it became an even more powerful energy source – making the battery 100% efficient. Since radioactive isotopes have a half-life of about 5,730 years, these diamond batteries will still be a viable energy source with 50% of its life remaining in the year 7746.
Now that scientists at Bristol Cabot have discovered a very powerful, long-lasting energy source, does it have any real-world application? The answer is a resounding yes. The ideal solution is using the technology in “situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries,” according to Materials Science Professor at Cabot University Tom Scott. Whether it’s used to prolong flights across the world or to power satellites orbiting the earth, there seems to be plenty of opportunity for diamond batteries.
According to Futurism, the “U.S. has amassed 84,250 tons of radioactive waste,” and with a half-life estimated at 5,730 years, nuclear material will be sticking around for a while. Scientists at Bristol Cabot may have discovered one of the only solutions to eradicating our radioactive waste supply and at the same time, created a fully 100% efficient energy source.