Just recently we are beginning to have a better understanding of just how much waste plastic is in our environment and what we might do to remove the plastic waste, recycling as much as we can. I would never have thought that there was a lot of waste diamonds lying around that need similar recycling, until now…
In nuclear reactors, graphite blocks are inserted between the radioactive materials to absorb some of the radioactive particles. Graphite is also used to house uranium, again, utilising its ability to absorb radioactive particles. The graphite block and housing have a limited lifetime and then they become nuclear waste.
One method of dealing with this radioactive waste is to heat the graphite and the radioactive carbon is given off as a gas. This can be processed using high-temperature chemistry and condensed into diamond crystals. Why go to this effort? Well, these diamonds produce a small electrical charge when near a radioactive source. Encapsulating radioactive material in diamonds turns nuclear waste into a long-term supply of clean energy, the Atomic Battery to fans of Science Fiction.
Researchers at Bristol University have created an atomic battery from Nickle-63. Carbon-14 batteries are on their way.
Before we all start celebrating the advent of an abundant source of CO2 free electricity there are some drawbacks. The batteries are radioactive so they need to have some shielding, probably lead and concrete. The other problem is that the Atomic Battery produces about 300 Joules per day whereas an AA cell produces about 14,000 joules per day.
On the plus side, the Atomic Battery lasts for 5,000 years! Hurray, no more charging my phone!
Duncan Bennett is CEO of Bostin Technology Services Ltd. that provides engineering services to a number of clients. Prior to Bostin Technology, he worked as part of the marketing team at Everspin and before that as Product Marketing Manager for Ramtron International. He has held similar positions with Cyan Technology, Cygnal Integrated Products, and served as a field applications engineer with Dallas Semiconductor. Bennett holds a Bachelor of Computing and Communications Engineering with honors from Bradford University.