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New breakthrough could lead to batteries that last thousands of years



A team at the University of Bristol has developed a new technology that uses nuclear waste and a man-made diamond to create a battery that could 'revolutionise the powering of devices over long timescales'.

The new battery is capable of creating clean energy and uses a diamond placed in a radioactive field to generate a current.

Presented at the Cabot Institute's annual 'Ideas to Change the World' lecture last week, a prototype ‘diamond battery’ using Nickel-63 as the radiation source is the first step in the process of creating long-lasting power sources of this kind.

The team behind the breakthrough are now working to create a version that uses carbon-14: a radioactive version of carbon.

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Once this new version is completed, it is claimed the battery would take 5,730 years to reach 50% power.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University’s Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute, 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.”

On top of providing long-lasting power, the new batteries will help reduce the amount of nuclear waste by using the carbon-14 generated in graphite blocks used to moderate the reaction in nuclear power plants.

According to the university, the UK currently holds almost 95,000 tonnes of graphite blocks, but extracting carbon-14 from them decreases their radioactivity, which in turn redues the cost and challenge of safely storing the nuclear waste.

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Dr Neil Fox from the School of Chemistry explained: “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.”

Professor Scott added: “We envision these batteries to be used in situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries.

"Obvious applications would be in low-power electrical devices where long life of the energy source is needed, such as pacemakers, satellites, high-altitude drones or even spacecraft."

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Let us know what you think of the technology in the comments.


November 29, 2016, 3:36 pm

"Obvious applications would be in .... pacemakers, satellites, high-altitude drones or even spacecraft."

Professor Scott obviously doesn't have an iphone!


November 29, 2016, 6:34 pm

Why do you keep posting these articles about very (very, very) early stage battery research? Almost none of these technologies (especially mini diamond nuclear reactors!) will likely come to fruition as a real battery product in our lifetimes (or at all).

I mean it's great to read about as a piece of basic scientific research, but you shouldn't write it up as "new breakthrough batteries headed our way".


November 29, 2016, 11:07 pm

It's called "click-bait".


December 2, 2016, 1:00 pm

they tried similar for pacemakers, I think using an isotope of plutonium - not the weaponisable one - which fell very flat. I'm not sure that separating one isotope from another is simple or remotely cheap. Look how expensive uranium enrichment is.

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