New technology has been developed by scientists at the University of Bristol that allows nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered kind of battery.
By using a manmade diamond, the battery works as the diamond generates an electrical current when placed in a radioactive field.
This field can even be placed inside the diamond.
Most electrical generation techniques involve the movement of a magnet through a coil of wires to generate an electrical current, but the new technology allows energy to be generated by being placed near a radioactive source – with no moving parts.
This also means that there are no emissions and the battery also requires minimal maintenance.
What’s more the battery can survive for hundreds or thousands of years, with the battery type being developed in the second generation of the technology taking 5,730 years to reach 50 per cent.
Tom Scott, Professor in Materials at 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.
“The prototype battery uses Nickel-63 as a radiation source but are no working to improve efficiency by using carbon-14 – something that is generated in graphite blocks use to moderate reaction in nuclear power plants.”
Research has shown that it is possible to remove the majority of the radioactive material from the blocks. This is important, considering that the UK currently holds nearly 95,000 tonnes of these blocks.
By extracting the radioactivity from them, the cost and challenge of storing nuclear waste is reduced.
Dr Neil Fox from the School of Chemistry said that:
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.”
It is not yet known how much carbon-14 each battery needs, though 1g of carbon-14 could deliver 15 joules of energy per day, which is less than a single AA battery.