Researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK have developed a method to turn radioactive graphite blocks, a waste product of nuclear reactors, into artificial diamonds that generate electricity.
These diamonds produce a small current that could last for thousands of years. Such long-lived “diamond batteries” could be used in spacecraft, implants such as pacemakers, and in other areas where long battery life is crucial. Researchers at the university said the development could solve some of the problems of nuclear waste, clean electricity generation and battery life. Tom Scott, professor in materials in the university’s interface analysis centre, said: “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation. 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.”
While at present the team’s prototype diamond battery uses nickel-63 as its radiation source, in the future they hope that this can be replaced by carbon-14, a radioactive version of carbon, which is created in the graphite blocks used in in nuclear power plants. Details online.