University of Bath

Diamond Energy: A new take on nuclear energy, Tom Scott, IAC Bristol

This exciting I-SEE seminar takes an alternative and more sustainable look at how nuclear energy can be utilised using innovative device technologies.

19 Feb 20194.30pm
19 Feb 20195.45pm

New technology is being developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery. The team from the University of Bristol, led by Professor Tom Scott, has grown a series of man-made diamond devices that, when placed in a radioactive field, are able to generate a small electrical current. When the diamonds are grown a radioactive form of carbon, the devices can become a very long-live power cell, providing a trickle of current for literally thousands of years. This development could solve some of the problems of nuclear waste, clean electricity generation and battery life.

To power the ‘diamond batteries’, the team uses carbon-14, the radioactive isotope of carbon, which is generated in graphite bricks used to moderate the reaction in nuclear power plants. Research by academics at Bristol has shown that the radioactive carbon-14 is concentrated at the surface of these bricks, making it possible to process it to remove the majority of the radioactive material. The extracted carbon-14 is then incorporated into a diamond to produce a nuclear-powered battery. The UK currently holds 90,000 tonnes of graphite bricks and by extracting carbon-14 from them, their radioactivity decreases, reducing the cost and challenge of safely storing this nuclear waste.

Despite their low-power, relative to current battery technologies, the life-time of these diamond batteries could revolutionise the powering of devices over long timescales. 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!

You are welcome to join us for afternoon tea in the Wessex Restaurant from 4pm to 4.25pm