Imagine a battery that provides green energy, saves taxpayers thousands of dollars, and never runs out of power. Sounds pretty great, right? These newly created radioactive diamond batteries could just be what we’ve been waiting for.
California-based company NDB has created radioactive-diamond batteries that they say will change the energy industry as we know it. These batteries, which act like tiny nuclear generators, can be used in everything from your cellphone to electric cars and even spaceships. (1) According to NBD, their nano-diamond batteries will (1):
- Be long-lasting, not needing a charge for anywhere between 10 and 28,000 years.
- Offer a higher power-density than lithium-ion batteries.
- Be nearly indestructible, making them safe in the case of an electric car crash.
- Be less expensive in certain applications (such as electric cars) than lithium-ion batteries.
How Nano-Diamond Batteries Work
In the very center of each battery cell, there is a small bit of recycled nuclear waste. (1) This is high-grade nuclear waste that is highly dangerous, expensive, and difficult to store, and takes anywhere from a few decades to thousands of years to become harmless. (2)
NDB uses graphite nuclear reactor parts that have become radioactive after absorbing radiation from nuclear fuel rods. This graphite is high in the carbon-14 radioisotope, which releases an anti-neutrino and a beta decay electron as it breaks down into nitrogen. NDB purifies that graphite and turns it into tiny carbon-14 diamonds. (1)
These little diamonds are semiconductors that collect charge and then send it back out. To keep these batteries 100% safe, they have encased the radioactive diamond with an inexpensive, non-radioactive lab-created carbon-12 diamond. This man-made diamond (1):
- Contains energetic particles
- Acts as a protective, tamper-proof layer
- Prevents radiation leaks
All of these are to make it a durable, safe battery that can be used in nearly every medium that requires one. (1)
How the Batteries are Made
The battery cells are made of (1):
- Several layers of the nano-diamond material
- A tiny integrated circuit board
- A small supercapacitor
The supercapacitor collects, stores, and distributes the charge. The battery can be any shape and fit with any standard: AA, AAA, 18650, 2170, and more. (1)
The result is a mini-power generator that (1):
- Is in the shape of any battery
- Never needs charging
- Cost-competitive and sometimes cheaper than lithium-ion batteries
- Uses up dangerous nuclear waste and saves money on its storage
Some of the suppliers of nuclear waste are even offering to pay NDB to take the waste from their plant. (1)
It’s Still Nuclear Power, So Is It Dangerous?
In short: No. NDB says that the radiation levels from the cell are less than those produced by our own bodies. On top of that, it is using up the nuclear waste that otherwise would have had to have been stored, which is costly, dangerous, and is a risk for a nuclear waste leak. (1)
UNESCO chair Dr. John Shawe-Taylor of University College London has nothing but positive things to say about the nano-diamond batteries:
“NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations. Their technology’s ability to deliver energy over very long periods of time without the need for recharging, refueling, or servicing puts them in an ideal position to tackle the world’s energy requirements through a distributed solution with close to zero environmental impact and energy transportation costs.” (1)
Where Can Radioactive Diamond Batteries Be Used?
The better question is where can’t nano-diamond batteries be used? They have many applications, including (1):
- Pacemakers and electronic implants
- Circuit boards
- Consumer electronics
- Electric vehicles
- Off-grid living
NDB plans to partner with some of its business customers to help provide the technology for remote communities in need. In the case of us running out of the necessary nuclear waste, which would take an extremely long time, the company says that they have an easy and inexpensive method to make their own carbon-14 raw material. (1)
When Will It Be Available?
NDB says that they already have a completed concept proof and are waiting on their labs to re-open post-coronavirus to build their commercial prototype. They expect to release a low-powered version in two years and another high-powered one in the next five. (1) If it succeeds, it has the potential to change the way we power our world forever.
- “Nano-diamond self-charging batteries could disrupt energy as we know it.” New Atlas. Loz Blain. August 25, 2020
- “Backgrounder on Radioactive Waste.” NRC.