Scientists have found a possible solution to two of the planet’s most pressing challenge’s. Power and pollution.
Researchers from the University of Bristol Cabot Institute are developing a diamond that both generates electricity, and reduces radioactive waste.
Radioactive waste is produced at nuclear power plants as a side-effect of nuclear fission. This is a process required for the creation of electricity. Waste from this is ultimately deposited into graphite cores, which are then safely removed and stored until they lose their radioactivity. However, with a half-life of 5,730 years, this process is by no means quick!
Now, however, scientists have started using this radioactive graphite to produce specialized diamond batteries. To achieve this, technicians heat the polluted graphite to release its radioactivity as a gas. They then subject this to a high temperature at low pressure, creating the sought after man-made diamonds.
A useful, and possibly revolutionary characteristic of these diamonds, is that they generate a small electrical current when placed in a radioactive field. The diamonds can therefore be used as batteries.
Testing has found that the nuclear diamond battery has some outstanding performance figures. A long life-span means that only half of the battery’s energy will be used by the year 7746. Flight times of planes, satellites, or space craft could be increased, along with the ability to provide more power to specialist technologies, like pacemakers. Throw away those re-chargeables, these batteries would out-live you!
On top of its longevity, researchers are also finding that the the diamond battery is incredibly efficient for treating radioactive waste. With countries increasingly looking to nuclear power as a ‘sustainable’ energy generation solution, the world is generating increasing amounts of radioactive waste. Diamond batteries could be an appropriate solution to this issue, helping to turn pollutive waste into a long-lasting energy source.
The question of powering the world is a daunting task, and one that draws out many contrasting and conflicting opinions from commentators. Now, however, it looks like researchers may have found a genuinely future-proof solution. No emissions, no maintenance, and direct electricity generation; no wonder some are calling the diamond battery the holy grail of electricity generation!
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