Scientists Developing Way to Convert Nuclear Waste into a Battery

While widely useful as well as available, batteries have many problems. One of the biggest problems faced by modern batteries is their longevity, or lack thereof. While an average battery may have a shelf life of up to ten years, but when used continuously the power will wear out in under a day. So how do we solve this problem? Making longer lasting batteries may work in the short term, but conventional engineering can only help for a small amount of time. If standard batteries cannot be used for long amounts of time, then they cannot be used in anything that needs a long lasting source of power, such as pacemakers or satellites. The solution, it turns out, is also a solution to a more pressing issue.

Nuclear energy is very efficient, as well as very dangerous. In the US alone, nearly 2300 metric tons of nuclear waste is produced each year. This nuclear waste is radioactive, and therefore it must be stored using specific regulations. However, scientists in the UK have developed a way to put some of this waste to use. A large percentage of the waste produced is Carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of carbon. Because of its long half-life, approximately  5730 years, C-14 is not as dangerous as other types of waste, but it is still dangerous.

So, how did these scientists solve both the problem of short battery life and excessive nuclear waste in one fell swoop? As it turns out, we’ve had the technology to end both of these problems for some time, but only recently have we realized we could use it in this way. The solution comes from man made diamonds, which have been reported to be first produced in 1879, although the reports may be fabricated. Diamonds are pure carbon, and while normally made from Carbon-12, which is not radioactive, they can be made from Carbon-14. How do diamonds solve either of these problems? Well diamonds produce a small electrical current when placed in a radioactive environment, and when made from Carbon-14, the diamond itself is radioactive, meaning a constant electric current is produced. The radioactive diamond can then be encased in a normal diamond, which will lower radiation exposure as well as further increase the power of the current produced. These diamond batteries can be used in any device that requires long term energy, and scientists are hopeful especially for the application for space travel.

These diamond batteries have many advantages, namely the reduction of nuclear waste, and extremely long lifetime which is over 10 thousand years due to the 5730 year half life. However, there are many disadvantages as well. Artificial diamonds are expensive to make, and the power provided is very low-energy, so many will have to be used at once. Despite the disadvantages, scientists are hopeful that this new industry will be the solution to nuclear waste as well as short battery lives.

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