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Researchers have claimed that nano-diamond batteries could last for 28,000 years. Such batteries would not only be beneficial to the world of electric cars and mobile phones, but their application would also be useful in aerospace and medical technology. This article discusses the development, commercialization, and application of novel nano-diamond batteries.
In 2016, at the annual lecture of the Cabot Institute, University of Bristol, researchers, for the first time, demonstrated a novel technology that could use nuclear waste to generate energy. They named their product “diamond batteries”. In 2020, a California-based startup company, NDB, has developed a highly efficient nano-diamond battery that could last up to 28,000 years without charging. This battery is also based on the utilization of nuclear waste.
Commonly available electricity-generation technologies utilize energy for moving a magnet via a coil of wire to produce a current. However, the diamond battery can generate current when placed close to a radioactive source. A team of researchers from the University of Bristol has developed a human-made diamond. This material can generate a low electrical power when put under the influence of a radioactive field.
The researchers at the Cabot Institute have used Nickel-63 as a radioactive source for demonstrating a prototype 'diamond battery'. The radioactive source is encapsulated inside a diamond to produce a nuclear-powered battery. However, the team envisioned using radioactive carbon-14 to obtain a battery with greater efficiency. Tom Scott, Professor in Materials at the University of Bristol, explained the advantages of the technology. He said that this technology would involve the long-term production of clean energy from nuclear waste and not require any maintenance as there are no moving parts or emissions.
Development of Nano-Diamond Batteries by NDB
In 2020, NDB announced two proof-of-concept tests conducted at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. As stated above, the nano-diamond battery from the NDB used nuclear waste to generate power. The radioactive core is protected with multiple layers of synthetic diamonds or polycrystalline diamond.
The polycrystalline diamond is an exceptionally thermally conductive material. This material also can contain the radiation within the device. The use of a polycrystalline diamond makes the nano-diamond battery immensely tough and tamperproof.
Technologies behind the development of nano-diamond batteries that ensure radiation, thermal, and mechanical safety are discussed below:
- Diamond Nuclear Voltaic (DNV) is a device that consists of a semiconductor. Individual units are connected to form a stack arrangement and fabricated to create a positive and negative contact surface analogous to a standard battery system. This design improves the system's overall efficiency, which includes the generation of a substantial amount of electricity and a multi-layer safety shield for the product.
- All radioactive isotopes can produce high amounts of heat energy. A single crystalline diamond (SCD) in the DNV unit and the strategic placement of radioactive source between the DNV units prevents self-absorption of heat by the radioisotope.
- NDB technology has utilized alpha, beta, and neutron radiations using boron-10 doping, helping to convert the extra neutron into the alpha ray. This design also enables the rapid conversion of radiation to usable electricity.
- The advanced flexible structural design enables it to take any shape based on its application. This feature makes NDB extremely market-friendly.
- The utilization of radioactive waste is a subject that many have not researched. NDB uses radioactive waste and reuses them by reprocessing and recycling. This technology ensures sustainability and gives rise to a clean energy source, and Achieving this has the added advantage of ensuring environmental safety.
Researchers believe that this technology would reduce the costs and challenges of storing nuclear waste in the most useful form. NDB envisioned the coexistence of innovation and restoration of a healthy environment. Implementing their innovative technology would improve the standards of living and pave the way towards the development of eco-friendly, green, and sustainable energy.
Applications of Nano-Diamond Batteries
Automotive: This battery could bring about a revolution in the world of electric cars. Researchers believe that this technology will benefit the electric car industry due to its immense longevity and efficiency, unlike any other existing batteries.
Medical Technology: These batteries could immensely contribute to medical devices, especially implantable devices, for example, pacemakers and hearing aids. The long battery life of nano-diamond batteries would be extremely beneficial for patients using such medical implants.
Aerospace: Recent advancements in space technology include electric aircraft development that has created the demand for batteries with longevity and safety. Space vehicles and satellites are currently supported by solar power, which is subjected to an unsettling space environment. NDB powers electric aircraft, drones, and space stations for a more extended period.
Electronics: The use of NDB for powering standard electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones negates the need to charge such devices continually. NDB claims the use of their product would benefit the consumers by providing them with power outlet independent devices and increasing personal quantum computing and the device’s computational power.
Defense: NDB can be used in surveillance systems and electronics.
The Future of Nano-Diamond Batteries
As our day to day life is heavily dependent on mobile battery-powered devices, there is a rapid increase in the demand for efficient and cost-effective batteries. Conventional batteries have several concerns that include global warming and waste accumulation. The nano-diamond batteries overcome these limitations of conventional batteries in terms of longevity and widespread applications. Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, University College of London, stated that this technology could be the solution to the world's energy crisis with 'close to zero environmental impact and energy transportation costs.'
The team at NDB announced that the first commercial prototype battery would be available later this year. They further expressed the high demand for their product by stating that many organizations, including aerospace companies and a leader in nuclear fuel cycle products, are lined up as customers.
References and Further Reading
NDB Technology [Online] Available at: https://ndb.technology/
The University of Bristol (2016) 'Diamond-age' of power generation as nuclear batteries developed. [Online] The University of Bristol. Available at: https://phys.org/news/2016-11-diamond-age-power-nuclear-batteries.html
Chatterjee, Abhishek. (2020) A battery made from nuclear waste that can last 28,000 years. [Online] The Hindu Times. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/a-battery-made-from-nuclear-waste-that-can-last-28000-years/article32484905.ece