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Scientists from the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute have developed an ingenious means of transforming nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate power for more than 5,000 years.
Diamond batteries could be used for applications that require super-long-lasting, dependable, power sources, such as satellites, spacecraft and pacemakers. Scientists also believe that processing nuclear waste into a clean energy source would be a great benefit to the environment.
It's interesting how the scientific community has fallen in love with diamonds. Only two weeks ago we explained how imperfect diamonds could provide the answer the world's long-term, high-density data storage needs. A single diamond, researchers claimed, might have the storage capacity of one million DVDs.
The Bristol scientists claimed that a diamond battery built in 2016 would last until the year 7746 and even longer. The power supply is based on the 5,730-year half-life of carbon-14, which is the radioactive version of carbon. Carbon-14 is found in the graphite blocks that are used to house uranium rods in nuclear reactors.
The spent blocks would normally be an environmental hazard, but by heating the graphic blocks, much of the radioactive carbon is emitted as a gas. This gas could then be collected and converted into diamond crystals using a high-temperature chemical reaction. When placed near a radioactive source, the man-made crystals produce a small electrical charge. To make the process even safer and more efficient, scientists plan to encase the radioactive diamonds within a layer of non-radioactive diamond material.
The result is a diamond within a diamond that generates a small electrical current, while emitting less nuclear radiation than a banana, the scientists claim.
"Safely held within diamond, no short-range radiation can escape," Dr. Neil Fox from the University's School of Chemistry, told the Daily Mail. "In fact, diamond is the hardest substance known to man. There is literally nothing we could use that could offer more protection."
While it has yet to be determined how much radioactive material would be contained in each battery, scientists claimed that one diamond battery containing one gram of carbon-14 would deliver the power equivalent of an alkaline AA battery. But instead of fading in 24 hours, the diamond battery would maintain its power for thousands of years.
After 5,730 years, the battery would still have 50% of its original capacity. After 11,460 years, the diamond battery's capacity would have halved again, but still maintain 25% of its original power. Even as it degrades, it would still have the ability to keep the object in question running smoothly. The battery's design has no moving parts, no emissions and requires no maintenance.
The Daily Mail reported that the researchers have been awarded funding to develop the project over the next three years.
Check out the video below for more details on this breakthrough technology...
Credit: Image via Bigstockphoto.com.