Advanced Technology Combatting Nuclear Waste
Science & Engineering
Okay, you are sitting in class and just before the professor enters the room and your phone or laptop device shuts down. This is not good, all the magic at your fingertips has disappeared and you need this tool for the big test next week. Now what? Just imagine never worrying about replacing batteries or being tethered to a wall like some wild dog on a leash, only to consume more electrical power. The future is now here and the researchers at Bristol University, UK may have found a way to harness nuclear waste into some type of synthetic man-made diamond.
In the 1950’s the United States took a savage approach using nuclear energy by powering the city of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Sure, this may have been a good idea at the time. Furthermore, this was beyond our technology at the time and now finding a way to store spent fuel has become a daunting task during the twenty-first century. Spent nuclear fuel holds valuable radioactive isotopes that are essential for industrial or medical use or could be processed into more energy.
On November 25, 2016 a fresh perspective to change the world was spearheaded by Professor Tom Scott and his research team at the University of Bristol. Scott’s area of research includes Geochemistry and Metallurgy of uranium and has successfully published over 60 papers and holds three patents and is the recipient of the 2014 RAEng ERA award for innovating extreme dose radiation detection system made from a synthetic gas-like man made diamond. This recent development could harvest nuclear energy as a power cell for satellites, high-altitude drones or even a Moon colony in the next 100 years.
Despite their low-power, relative to current battery technologies, the life-time of these diamond batteries could revolutionize the powering of devices over long time periods. The actual amount of carbon-14 in each battery has yet to be decided but one battery, containing 1gram of carbon-14, would deliver 15 Joules per day. This man-made diamond battery could hold about 2 volts of electricity, which is equivalent to a small AA battery. Standard alkaline AA batteries are designed for short timeframe discharge: one battery weighing about 20g has an energy storage rating of 700J/g. If operated continuously, this would run out in 24 hours. Using carbon-14 the battery would take 5,730 years to reach 50 per cent power, which is about as long as human civilization has existed.
Under those circumstances, we must examine the drawbacks of such a device and the responsibilities connected with environmental laws, and human exposure. The first question that comes to mind is the structural integrity and the atomic bonds associated with Nickel-63. According to the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, a fingernail is approximately 2.5 and a real diamond ranks a 10 on mineral resistance. So, to help understand this diamond battery, Wright Times reached out to the Environmental Club for more answers.
“The science is valid,” explains Dr. John P. Tandarich, Club advisor. “On the other hand, this is a pie-in-the-sky idea and this battery has not been built yet,” adds Dr. John. Environmental Club officers include: Bethany Salgado (Club President), Ian Santillan (Vice President), Elena Sandoval (Secretary) and club treasurer, Tyrone Suplac and together they are implementing new ways of reducing the amount of chemicals that escape out of household dryer ventilation systems.
In this final analysis, researchers and the world’s top scientists still have a long way to solve our nuclear waste problem. In addition, we can do our part as well by conserving energy and cutting back on our own carbon footprint. Simple task such as turning off lights, riding a bike to school or work and recycling unwanted materials could be a step in the right direction for a cleaner habitat. The diamond battery is a good idea. But at the same time, do not expect to find this product at a local hardware store. Hopefully one day scientists can resolve our nuclear waste problem so that all of can breathe cleaner healthier air in the future.