If you haven’t noticed, it’s a pretty exciting time to be alive right now.
We have several privately funded companies planning trips to the moon. We found out that spending long periods of time in space can actually change a human’s DNA. And now a team of physicists and chemists at the University of Bristol have developed a way to use nuclear waste to create batteries out of diamonds that could potentially last forever.
Researchers have dubbed it the “Diamond Age” of battery power, and it’s a fitting title. Using tons of nuclear waste, they’ve figured out a way to create lab-grown diamond batteries that can produce a small electrical current. The diamonds use a tiny bit of radioactive energy to produce the low-current battery and they estimate that they could be capable of outliving all of human civilization.
The Cabot Institute hosted the team as they presented their findings to a sold-out lecture back in December.
“There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation,” said Tom Scott, Professor in Materials at the University of Bristol Interface Analysis Center. “By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”
Not only does this battery help provide a solution to nuclear waste, but it provides a source of clean energy.
At the moment, the batteries feature nickel-63 as their main source of radiation, which is put inside of the man-made diamonds. However, the team is experimenting with other elements and materials to see what works best. Carbon-14 will be tested in the near future, as it is a radioactive isotope of carbon that can be found in blocks of graphite.
Carbon-14 would be ideal, considering the United Kingdom currently has about 95,000 tons of nuclear waste in the form of graphite blocks. This new discovery could help get rid of all that waste in a helpful, low-cost, low-risk way.