Turn nuclear waste into batteries? Radioactive diamond nuclear battery may be a good choice
Researchers are developing a new battery whose power core comes from radioactive diamonds made from laboratory modified nuclear waste. If the team succeeds, the battery it develops will last for thousands of years.
In the summer of 2018, one A drone dropped a small package near the crater of Stromboli. The Stromboli volcano is located near the coast of Sicily and has been erupting almost continuously for the past century. As one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, geologists have always been fascinated by it, but collecting data near this constantly churning volcano is extremely dangerous. Therefore, a research team from the University of Bristol built a”volcano detection robot” and used a drone to transport it to the top of the volcano, where it can passively monitor every time the volcano Earthquakes and tremors until it is inevitably destroyed by eruptions. The robot is a softball-sized sensor capsule, driven by a micro-dose of nuclear energy provided by a radioactive battery the size of a chocolate cube. Researchers call their creation the”Dragon Egg”.
&34;Dragon Egg&34; Robot can help scientists , To study this violent natural process with unprecedented detail data, but for Tom Scott, a materials scientist at the University of Bristol, volcano exploration is just the beginning. In the past few years, Professor Scott and a small group of collaborators have been developing an upgraded version of the &34;Dragon Egg&34; nuclear battery that can last for thousands of years No need to recharge or replace. Different from the batteries that generate electricity through chemical reactions in most modern electronic products, the batteries studied by the University of Bristol collect particles emitted by radioactive diamonds. These particles can be modified Of nuclear waste.
Earlier this month, Sko Scott and his collaborator, Neil Fox, a chemist at the University of Bristol, created a company called &34;Arkenlight&34;, the purpose of which is to combine their nuclear Commercialization of diamond batteries. Although this nail-sized battery is still in the prototype stage, it has shown efficiency and power compared with the existing nuclear battery Density improvement. Once Professor Scott and his Arkenlight team have perfected their design, they will set up a test facility for mass production. The company plans to put the first commercial nuclear batteries on the market by 2024—but we don’t expect to find them in our laptops.
Why Can nuclear batteries be used in our mobile phones, computers, and electric cars?
Traditional chemical batteries or”primary batteries”, such as lithium-ion batteries in smartphones or alkaline batteries in remote controls, can release a lot of power in a short time. Lithium-ion batteries can only work for a few hours without charging, and after a few years of use, its charging capacity will drop significantly. In contrast, nuclear batteries or Betavoltaic batteries (Betavoltaic batteries, a type of battery that converts radioactive beta radiation into electric current) are all types of batteries that can continue to generate trace amounts of electricity for a long time. Battery. The electricity they generate is not enough to power smart phones, but according to the nuclear materials they use, they can provide small devices with stable power output for thousands of years.
&34;Then, we can use nuclear batteries Do you power electric cars? The answer is-no. &34;Arkenlight CEO Morgan Boardman (Morgan Boardman) said that to power such energy-consuming things, this means that the &34;battery&39;quality&39; will need to be significantly greater than the vehicle’s&39 ;Quality&39;&34;. On the contrary, the company is looking for applications where it is almost impossible or impossible to replace batteries on a regular basis (or one-time long-term application products), such as nuclear waste storage, remote or dangerous locations on satellites Sensor. Boardman has also seen applications closer to our lives, such as using the company’s nuclear batteries for pacemakers or wearable devices. The future he envisions is that people will keep the battery and replace the device instead of the current:frequent battery replacement on the same device. &34;You will have replaced several fire alarms before replacing the battery, because the battery life has far exceeded these devices. &34;Boardman (Boardman) said so.
Not surprisingly, most people They will definitely resist nuclear batteries because they believe that such batteries will produce radioactive materials and endanger their health. But from the health risk report of the Betavoltaic battery, it is comparable to the health risk of the”Export Sign”. The”Export Sign” uses a type called”Tritium” radioactive materials to achieve its signature red fluorescence. Unlike gamma rays or other more dangerous types of radiation, beta particles only need to pass a few millimeters of shielding to stop their orbit. Lance Hubbard, a materials scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said:&34;Usually only the battery wall is sufficient to prevent any leakage. This leaves almost no radioactive material inside the nuclear battery, which is very safe for people. &34;Moreover, he added that when a nuclear battery runs out of power, it will decay to a steady state, which means that there is no nuclear waste left in it.
The popularity of low-power electronic products nowadays-does it herald that nuclear batteries will enter a new era?
The first generation of Betavoltaic batteries (Betavoltaic batteries) were available in the 1970s, but until recently, no one had used them. They were originally used in pacemakers, in this case a defective power pouch may mean the difference between life and death, until they are eventually replaced by cheaper lithium ion alternatives. Today, the popularity of low-power electronic products heralds a new era of nuclear batteries. &34;For devices with very low power, this is a good power supply choice-I’m talking about microwatts, or even picowatts. &34; Hubbard (Hubbard) believes:&34; The Internet of Things has promoted the revival of these energy sources. &34;
A typical Betavoltaic battery consists of a thin, foil-like layer of radioactive material sandwiched between semiconductors. The principle of power generation is:when the nuclear material decays naturally, it will emit high-energy electrons or positrons called beta particles, which will disperse the electrons in the semiconductor material to generate electric current. In this sense, nuclear batteries are similar to solar panels, except that their semiconductors absorb beta particles instead of photons. .
Like solar panels, nuclear batteries have a strict energy limit. Their power density decreases as the radiation source is farther away from the semiconductor. Therefore, if the thickness of the battery layer exceeds a few microns, the power of the battery will drop sharply. In addition, beta particles are emitted randomly in all directions, which means that only a small part of the particles will actually hit the semiconductor, and only a small part of it will be converted into electricity. As for how much radiation a nuclear battery can convert into electricity, Hubbard said:&34;At this stage, the efficiency of about 7%is the most advanced. &34;
This is Arkenlight’s&34 ; Betalight & 34; volt-ampere battery, integrated a sensor package. Unlike carbon-14 batteries,”Betalight” is a traditional”sandwich” nuclear battery made of tritium.
So, can this nuclear battery defect be resolved? Let’s take a look at the solution
This is a far cry from the theoretical maximum efficiency of a nuclear battery (about 37%). But this is where a radioisotope called &34;carbon-14&34; can help.”Carbon-14″ is the most well-known role in radiocarbon dating, which allows archaeologists to estimate the age of ancient artifacts. At the same time, it can also power nuclear batteries because it can be used as a radioactive source. , Can also be used as a semiconductor. It also has a half-life of 5700 years.This means that carbon-14 nuclear batteries can in principle power electronic devices for longer than humans have written language.
Scott and him Colleagues in a special reactor, by injecting methane into hydrogen plasma to cultivate artificial & 34; carbon-14 & 34; diamonds. When the gas is ionized, the methane decomposes and carbon-14 accumulates on the substrate in the reactor and begins to grow in the diamond lattice. However, Scott and his colleagues used this radioactive diamond in a traditional”sandwich” battery configuration, in which the nuclear source and semiconductor are discrete layers. Moreover, they applied for a patent for injecting carbon-14 directly into laboratory equipment to grow diamonds. The diamonds produced by this method are similar to the diamonds on our daily rings. The result is a crystal diamond with a seamless structure, which minimizes the moving distance of the beta particles and maximizes the efficiency of the nuclear battery.
&34;So far The radioactive source is always separated from the diode that receives the radioactive source and converts it into electrical energy. &34;Boardman (Boardman) said:&34;This is a breakthrough development. &34;
When cosmic rays hit nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere, &34;carbon-14&34; is naturally formed, but it is also a by-product in the control rods of nuclear reactors. Produced in graphite blocks. These lumps will eventually become nuclear waste.Boardman said there are nearly 100,000 tons of this radiated graphite in the UK alone. The British Atomic Energy Agency recently recovered another radioisotope, tritium, used in nuclear batteries from 35 tons of irradiated graphite blocks. The Arkenlight team is working with the agency to develop a similar process to recover carbon-14 from graphite blocks. .
If Arkenlight succeeds, it will provide almost inexhaustible raw materials for the manufacture of nuclear batteries. According to British AEA estimates, less than 100 pounds (approximately 45.36kg) of carbon-14 is enough to make millions of nuclear batteries. In addition, by removing the radioactive carbon-14 in the graphite block, it will be downgraded from high-level nuclear waste to low-level nuclear waste, making it easier to handle and safer for long-term storage.
Currently, what is the future of commercialization of diamond nuclear batteries?
At present, Arkenlight has not used the transformed nuclear waste to produce Betavoltaic batteries. Boardman said, Before it is ready for use, the company’s nuclear The diamond battery needs several years of improvement in the laboratory. But this technology has attracted interest from the space and nuclear industries. Bodman continued that Arkenlight recently won a contract from the European Space Agency to develop diamond batteries for a project he called”satellite RFID tags” (satellite RFID tags). It can send out weak radio signals and continuously identify satellites for thousands of years. However, their vision does not stop at nuclear batteries. Arkenlight is also developing Gammavoltaic batteries, which can absorb gamma rays from nuclear waste storage depots and use them to generate electricity.
Arkenlight’s gamma volt battery prototype , It will convert the gamma rays in the nuclear waste repository into electricity.
Arkenlight is not the only company researching nuclear batteries. American companies like City Lab and Widetronix have been developing Betavoltaic batteries for decades. These companies focus on more traditional laminated nuclear batteries, and they usetritiuminstead of carbon-14 diamond as the nuclear power source.
Michael Spencer, an electrical engineer at Cornell University and co-founder of Widetronix, said that the application of radioactive materials must be considered when selecting radioactive materials. For example, carbon-14 emits fewer beta particles than tritium, but has a half-life of 500 times longer. If what you need can last forever, this is indeed its advantage, but it also means that the carbon-14 nuclear battery must be much larger than thetritiumbattery To provide the same amount of power. &34;The choice of isotope brings many trade-offs. &34; Spencer (Spencer) said.
If nuclear batteries were once an edge technology, then it seems to be ready to enter mainstream energy. We don’t necessarily need to—or don’t want all of our electronic products to last for thousands of years. But when we do this, we will have a battery that is always working…maybe our next generation, the next generation, and the next generation are still working.
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