Scientists found that by heating graphite blocks, used to house uranium rods in nuclear reactors, much of the radioactive carbon is given off as a gas. This can then be gathered and turned into radioactive diamonds using a high-temperature chemical reaction, in which carbon atoms are left on the surface in small, dark-colored diamond crystals.
These man-made diamonds produce a small electrical charge when placed near a radioactive source these radioactive diamonds are then encased safely within a layer of non-radioactive diamond which the surface of the diamond emitting less radiation than a banana.
The Bristol scientists have already created a working diamond battery from nickel-63, a radioactive isotope more stable than carbon-14, which is prevalent in nuclear waste. They will create their first carbon-14 batteries in the New Year.
“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.”
A diamond battery containing 20g of carbon-14 would deliver a small electrical charge of 300 joules per day. By contrast, an AA battery outputs 14,000 joules per day.
Scientists at NASA are reportedly interested in using the technology in space flight, while tech firms could incorporate the batteries into smaller, internet-enabled devices.
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