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Power Generation Reaches Diamond Era with the Development of Nuclear Battery

By Rose C
Dec 01, 2016 06:09 AM EST
New Containment Dome Installed Over Chernobyl's Damaged Nuclear Reactor
The New Safe Confinement sarcophagus covers the destroyed reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power station on November 29, 2016 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. On April 26, 1986, workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant inadvertantly caused a meltdown in reactor number four, causing it to explode and send a toxic cocktail of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere in the world's worst civilian nuclear incident.
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Researchers have found a way to turn nuclear waste into nuclear-powered batteries using diamond, offering longer battery life and solving the issue of clean energy.

A team of chemists and physicists from Bristol University presented their discovery at a lecture entitled "Ideas to Change the World" in Cabot Institute. The researchers have grown a man-made diamond that generated a small electrical current when placed in a radioactive field.

"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," Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University's Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute stated in a report provided by the University of Bristol.

The majority of the existing electricity generation methods use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate current, the new method allows the diamond to produce a charge simply by being placed near a radioactive source.

Numerous studies have shown nuclear energy as a reliable source of energy since it does not produce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, it produces tons of hazardous waste material which are hard to repurpose. In an article by GreenPeace.org, numerous studies have shown the different effects of this radioactive waste including cancers, birth defects, genetic damage, and lowered immunity to diseases in humans. Accordingly, it is estimated that due to atmospheric testing alone, 430,000 fatal human cancers had been produced by the year 2000 and that eventually, the total will be 2.4 million.

In the research, the so-called "diamond battery" used a Nickel-63 as the source of radiation.

Dr. Neil Fox from the School of Chemistry said that the carbon-14 was chosen as a source material because it emits a short-range radiation, which is absorbed fast by any solid material. The radioactive carbon-14 can remove the greater part of the radioactive material. Then, the extracted carbon-14 was fused into a diamond to produce a nuclear-powered battery. 

"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," Scott added.

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