'Diamond-age' of power generation as nuclear batteries developed

November 27, 2016
Credit: University of Bristol

New technology has been developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery. A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current.

New technology has been developed that uses to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery. A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current. The development could solve some of the problems of nuclear waste, clean and battery life.

This innovative method for radioactive energy was presented at the Cabot Institute's sold-out annual lecture - 'Ideas to change the world'- on Friday, 25 November.

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University's Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute, said: "There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation. By encapsulating radioactive material inside , we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy."

The team have demonstrated a prototype 'diamond battery' using Nickel-63 as the radiation source. However, they are now working to significantly improve efficiency by utilising carbon-14, a radioactive version of carbon, which is generated in graphite blocks used to moderate the reaction in nuclear power plants. Research by academics at Bristol has shown that the radioactive carbon-14 is concentrated at the surface of these blocks, making it possible to process it to remove the majority of the material. The extracted carbon-14 is then incorporated into a diamond to produce a nuclear-powered battery.

The UK currently holds almost 95,000 tonnes of graphite blocks and by extracting carbon-14 from them, their radioactivity decreases, reducing the cost and challenge of safely storing this nuclear waste.

Dr Neil Fox from the School of Chemistry explained: "Carbon-14 was chosen as a source material because it emits a short-range radiation, which is quickly absorbed by any solid material. This would make it dangerous to ingest or touch with your naked skin, but safely held within diamond, no short-range radiation can escape. In fact, diamond is the hardest substance known to man, there is literally nothing we could use that could offer more protection."

Despite their low-power, relative to current battery technologies, the life-time of these diamond batteries could revolutionise the powering of devices over long timescales. Using carbon-14 the would take 5,730 years to reach 50 per cent power, which is about as long as human civilization has existed.

Professor Scott added: "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.

"There are so many possible uses that we're asking the public to come up with suggestions of how they would utilise this technology by using #diamondbattery."

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29 comments

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Whydening Gyre
Nov 27, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Solon
1 / 5 (5) Nov 27, 2016
Dosimetry is not required when handling C-14.
Most research involving C-14 may be performed on a laboratory bench.
Shielding is not required for C-14.

More nuclear scare scamming. There is no such thing as nuclear waste.
http://www.wsj.co...22614525
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 27, 2016
Hey perhaps I can swap out the tritium sights on my sidearm. Those things were scaring me.
rrrander
3.5 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2016
Anti-nuke kooks will find a way to object to it. Good thing they didn't decide to use nickel 63 (beta emitter) because it takes a year of bombarding nickel 62 in a reactor to product it so it's very expensive.
retrosurf
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2016
Here's a link to the explanatory video from the researchers:

https://youtu.be/b6ME88nMnYE

Nice music. Very informative: I had no idea that Britain relied so heavily on graphite moderation.
Eikka
3 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2016
"There are so many possible uses that we're asking the public to come up with suggestions of how they would utilise this technology by using #diamondbattery."


That depends entirely on the power of the battery.

Hey perhaps I can swap out the tritium sights on my sidearm. Those things were scaring me.


Why? The radiation can't penetrate the glass of the capsule.
Sonhouse
3 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2016
How much actual power are they talking about? 1 milliwatt? 1 watt? If it gave 10 watts you could have a permanent power source for cell phones but I am not holding my breath there.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 28, 2016
Why? The radiation can't penetrate the glass of the capsule
Well as we know the pleasant green radiation is what we can see in the dark. And if these batts can be made small enough they can be combined with LEDs for perpetual lights of any color.

And perhaps if you had a sense of humor you would have recognized the funny thing I said.
Eikka
3 / 5 (6) Nov 28, 2016
if these batts can be made small enough they can be combined with LEDs for perpetual lights of any color.


Tritium lights come in any color you choose, because the glow is made by a phosphor coating the inside of the capsule. It's also more efficient at converting beta radiation to light than the LED would be because it's functionally identical to a fluorescent tube.

And perhaps if you had a sense of humor you would have recognized the funny thing I said.


Why don't you explain it, so we can see if it was as funny as you thought.

How much actual power are they talking about? 1 milliwatt?


Carbon-14 has a mean decay energy of 49 keV or 7.85e-15 Joules and activity of 165e+9 bq/g which gives you a power output of 0.0013 Watts per gram.

So a gram-sized lump of carbon-14 - about half a teaspoon - assuming perfect conversion, will produce 1.3 Milliwatts, or about 1/20th of what it takes to light up a common red indicator LED.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2016
Going by that calculation, if you want to light up one of those keychain lights that runs on about 3 Volts and 15 mA, you need 35 grams of radiocarbon, which makes a 173 carat diamond, or larger depending on what other elements you have to add.

That's one heck of a diamond. Something like this:
http://famousdiam...hape.jpg
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2016
The largest synthetic diamonds made appear to be around 25 carats, or 5 grams. Anything larger than 200 milligrams becomes too expensive for common applications as the process takes days or weeks under high-temperature plasma conditions, growing the crystal almost atom by atom.
MaxwellSmith
1.5 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2016
Nice power source to power an EM Drive for intersteller travel. Wouldn't need to rely on the diminishing power of solar as we exit the solar system or an onboard nuclear reactor.
syndicate_51
not rated yet Nov 28, 2016
I thought the hardest substance known to man was Carbyne or some other ultra strength carbon hybrid derivative.

Anyways it is diminutive in respect to societies power needs.

Use IFR's, oh wait Russia China and others will be regardless of the anties stance on nuclear.

Wouldn't that be hilarious if green peace went into Russia to protest their new IBN-800 they are planning.

Didn't they threaten to sink the Sea Sheppard last time they went there?

But ya to deal with the nuke waste you need the IFR. Argonne demonstrated very clearly the technology is ready and given how fast other nations (some mentioned above) are now pursuing it its an inevitability.
Lord_jag
5 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2016
All crystals are grown atom by atom...
syndicate_51
5 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2016
Nice power source to power an EM Drive for intersteller travel. Wouldn't need to rely on the diminishing power of solar as we exit the solar system or an onboard nuclear reactor.


Maxwell this source of power would still be subject to the nature of radioactive decay and as such would see (perhaps much later) a drop off in power similar to a nuclear reactor.

Either way you cut it there will be diminishing power.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2016
All crystals are grown atom by atom...


If you don't want perfect crystals, you can grow them by clumping up smaller crystals and melting them together. Makes it a whole lot faster and cheaper.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Nov 28, 2016

Tritium lights come in any color you choose, because the glow is made by a phosphor coating the inside of the capsule. It's also more efficient at converting beta radiation to light than the LED would be because it's functionally identical to a fluorescent tube
Well I can look stuff up too but I will usually post recognizable excerpts or links because I think it is more useful and honest and less pretentious. Like this one

"I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh." Maya Angelou

-Get it?
Eikka
not rated yet Nov 28, 2016
"I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh." Maya Angelou

-Get it?


The psychotic or scitzophrenic and people on the autism spectrum have one thing in common. They tend to routinely forget - if they understand it at all - that other people do not have the same thoughts or associations, or understanding of the surrounding reality and facts as they do, so they are often baffled and irritated when other people react "strangely" to whatever they say or do, or don't get what is "obvious" to them.

What is so funny about tritium sights on a gun simply beats me. That's why I asked you to elaborate on your insult and explain the joke - to know which of us is the crazy one.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2016
Are you calling maya angelou schizophrenic? Lets do a search... heres one result

"Schizophrenics can present as catatonic; however, catatonics are not always schizophrenic. ... However, Maya Angelou was no catatonic schizophrenic."

-although she had ample reason to be one

"Maya Angelou Beaten And Held Captive, Survives Domestic Violence... he hit me with his fists -- and he had been a prize fighter. He hit me, he beat me.Sometimes I'd go unconscious."

Hmmm what about autism?

"She was mute – until she was a little over 12 years old. During this time, Angelou describes a transformation in her brain that made her capable of memorizing certain things to the smallest detail."

-I suppose it is possible but this is as far as I got before my attention span ran out.

Uh what was the question?

Oh yeah tritium. Let me try to explain. Swapping out one harmless radiation source for another because of irrational radiophobia implies a comical level of ignora
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2016
Plus guns are funny haha.

BTW as I have mentioned in the past, you do tend to use info you look up without properly sourcing it which is really not funny for the reasons I cited. But its easy to make a joke out of.

So which is more annoying - being chastized or being laughed at?
Moebius
not rated yet Nov 30, 2016
If we as a species had any sense we would build everything to last as long as possible. One of the many reasons we aren't going to make it is that we build virtually everything to only last as short a time as possible. A waste of material and energy even if recycled and a source of pollution on several levels that is immensely exacerbated by short product lifetimes.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2016
If we as a species had any sense we would build everything to last as long as possible.

Well, that only makes sense if you think nothing is ever improved. If you figure in improvement then it makes sense to build stuff to last roughly until an improved version is developed.
While that time interval cannot be given with certainty it can well be estimated. That would still mean to build things that last a lot longer than the throw-away-dreck we build now.

Of course you can build stuff that is *too* good. The company that built meat grinders went bankrupt because their stuff never broke and got passed on for generations. Once every household had one they no longer had a business model.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2016
perhaps I can swap out the tritium sights on my sidearm. Those things were scaring me.
ROTFLMFAO

MRBlizzard
5 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2016

In fact, diamond is the hardest substance known to man, there is literally nothing we could use that could offer more protection."

Anyone who has chipped a diamond knows brittle materials are susceptible to damage.
moondew
not rated yet Dec 02, 2016
If we as a species had any sense we would build everything to last as long as possible.

what a strange statement. We, as a species, historically, had always built things to last and invested vast human energies into upkeep and repair of what was already being created. But then Ikea and Apple decided this type of development aint making enough profit.
moondew
not rated yet Dec 02, 2016
I thought the hardest substance known to man was Carbyne or some other ultra strength carbon hybrid derivative.

yeah, but the hardest substance known to WOMAN was lonsdaleite and wurtzite boron nitride.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2016
Are you calling maya angelou schizophrenic?


No, I was suspecting you might be, because you sometimes launch on weird tangents and rants, have a tendency to come up with conspiracy theories like the time when you thought the king of Spain and Christopher Columbus already knew that the Americas existed, and you seem to think that other people are in on the jokes and ideas you make up in your head.

BTW as I have mentioned in the past, you do tend to use info you look up without properly sourcing it which is really not funny for the reasons I cited. But its easy to make a joke out of.


When I post and quote sources, people complain about me ranting. When I don't, you complain about lack of sourcing. Devil if you do, damn if you don't.

And there really isn't a need to source common trivial non-controversial facts like how a tritium light works or what is the radioactivity of Carbon-14, that can be found in 10 seconds on Google.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2016
Of course you can build stuff that is *too* good. The company that built meat grinders went bankrupt because their stuff never broke and got passed on for generations. Once every household had one they no longer had a business model.


Hence why such devices such as the particular "too good" meat grinder should really be in the public domain, and whenever someone needs to have one made they could have one built by a shop that isn't geared to produce just meat grinders.

Similiarily, there could for example be a generic pre-approved car chassis design that could be made by anyone and pass the road legality tests - one that is designed to last for 40-50 years and be free of trademarks, patents or copyrights, so that any machine shop could throw one together out of plans. Such a chassis would hold generic parts like the engine and drivetrain, which would become very cheap. That way, the people who just want a cheap reliable car could buy one from just about anyone.

BrettC
not rated yet Jan 16, 2017
Diamonds can and will burn, so safety is an issue. Also, it probably uses up a lot more energy to produce than the device could ever hope to generate. Also, limiting it to application that are difficult to power.

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