While nuclear energy is an effective alternative to replace the burning of fossil fuels,disposal of nuclear waste is one of the greatest technical challenges of the 21st century.More than simply disposing of the spent nuclear fuel, its safe and long-term  storage is the concern of today as it contains valuable radioactive isotopes that are needed in industry and medicine,or can be reprocessed to produce more fuel. Scientists have now found a way out.

Scientists from the university of Bristol have developed a new technology that uses seemingly worthless nuclear waste for clean electricity generation, by converting radioactive gases into artificial diamonds.The man-made diamonds generate their own electric current, when placed in a radioactive field and thus can be used as batteries to generate a small electric current for larger life span on account of the longstanding half-life of radioactive substances.

“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,”said Tom Scott, Geochemist and Professor in materials in the University’s Interface Analysis Center.

More research is being carried out to improve the technology and efficiency of these batteries by using Carbon-14 which is generated from graphite blocks used as a moderator in nuclear power plants.Carbon -14 chosen as a source material as it has a half life of 5730 years and it emits a short-range radiation which can be quickly absorbed and safely hold within diamonds . Diamonds are being the hardest substance known to man will allow no radiation  to escape, making it explained Dr. Neil Fox from the School of Chemistry.

In situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries , these batteries can be used. Obvious applications would be in low power electrical devices where long life of energy source is needed, such as Pace Maker, satellites, High altitude Drones or even Space Crafts.

-By S Au Rav


Featured Image Credit-
Viktor Kiryanov