As our world changes, so too do the ways we use electricity. As renewable energy sources are slowly adopted in larger quantities, there’s a large need to store excess energy during off-peak times and redistribute it when need outstrips demand. This has lead to massive battery reserves by the likes of companies such as Tesla, and has caused numerous companies to pursue the creation of batteries that store power more efficiently. While many pursue and expand on current lithium battery technologies, the University of Bristol Cabot Institute believes the future may be in nuclear waste.
With nuclear power, uranium atoms are split during a process called nuclear fission. This split causes a large release of heat, which is used to vaporize steam that turns electricity-generating turbines. While this method allows us to create large amounts of energy, it also produces a lot of radioactive waste. We are then stuck with this material until it’s no longer dangerous, uranium has a half-life of 5,730 years…which is far longer than anyone cares for. Luckily though, the University of Bristol Cabot Institute have managed to heat radioactive graphite in a way that releases most of the radioactivity in a gaseous form. This gas is then subjected to high temperatures and low pressures, which turn it into man-made diamonds.
When these diamonds are placed in a radioactive field, they manage to generate a small electrical current. The team was then able to enclose the diamond battery in another non-radioactive diamond to absorb the harmful emissions, which in turn allows for the generation of even more electricity. All in all, this leads to a battery with almost 100 percent efficiency.
The battery, thanks to its makeup, also has an amazing lifespan that will let it last to around the year 7746. Yes, you read that right….the year 7746. According to Tom Scott, a materials science professor at Cabot Institute, this makes it an ideal power solution for “situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries”. The obvious application is for drones, satellites, and spacecraft which could remain powered and in-flight almost indefinitely. It could also revolutionize medical devices, and allow for reliable pacemakers and other implants.
If these batteries become mass produced, we certainly have no shortage of raw material. The US alone has 76,430 metric tons of nuclear waste.
Images: University of Bristol, WikiMedia
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