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Nuclear Diamonds

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Nuclear diamond batteries are a concept that was presented at the University of Bristol’s “Ideas to change the world” lecture series in 2016. The concept is to take the problem of existing nuclear waste and convert it into a long-term supply of clean energy. In nuclear reactors, graphite blocks are used to moderate the reaction. The UK alone has nearly 95,000 tons of radioactive graphite blocks in special long-term storage facilities. The top layer of the blocks contains a radioactive form of carbon, Carbon-14.

Diamonds are also made of carbon, so what they propose is to scrape off the top layer of Carbon-14, then compress it and turn it into a diamond. When properly arranged in a radioactive field, they are able to generate an electric circuit from the diamond, which is essentially a battery. They then encase these diamonds in the strongest material known to man, which also happens to be a diamond, which also blocks the radiation from escaping. You now have a battery with a 5000+ year half-life. The beauty of this idea is that the radioactive carbon is already out there and so this would be repurposing something that currently poses a long-term problem for society, into something positive. Nuclear diamonds are a great example of the out-of-the-box type thinking we are trying to encourage and foster at Climitigation. Tom Scott, Professor in Materials at Bristol University, summed them up as the following:

“There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation. By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”

Grain that tastes like wheat, but grows like grass

Grain that tastes like wheat, but grows like grass

By Replacement No Comments

Did you know that most grains like corn only last one season and have to be planted, tilled, etc each and every year? They are called annuals and so each year the replanting process causes tons of waste, topsoil erosion, fertilizer runoff, pollution and CO2 release. It would be much better if there was a cultivated grass, which when consumed by humans is then defined as a “grain,” that could be planted once, and yield multiple seasons of crops (perennial).

Turns out, scientists have developed such a grass called Kernza. They call it “the wheat of the future” because it has much better properties than the current main grains that feed humanity: rice, wheat, and corn. We as individuals need to be open to adjusting our palate to like new flavors, simply because they make more sense. It is said to taste like “nuts, crackers, coffee, and grass” so it can’t be that bad. As consumers, we need to start stimulating demand for these types of products and be open to integrating them into our meals. We may have to make some minor sacrifices, but it will be worth it in the end because this type of plant would yield food for 5 seasons versus one season. This is a 5x improvement in all of the metrics associated with planting and tilling and would significantly improve our environment and ecosystems, especially by preserving our topsoil resources.

Read more about this awesome grass and let the idea of better species grow on you:

The word “grain” has many definitions, but it commonly refers to any plant that humans eat and that’s also part of the botanical family of grasses. Three grains provide about half of the world’s calories: corn, wheat, and rice (the only one of the three that is occasionally cultivated as a perennial in the tropics). In the United States, about 46 million acres of land are covered with wheat and 91 million with corn, a combined area bigger than New Mexico. Mostly, these grains are planted in monoculture—one variety to a huge field—and cultivated with the help of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, as well as the kind of precision and efficiency you’d expect on a factory floor. This method of farming has made it possible to cheaply produce food calories for hundreds of millions of people; raise vast populations of cattle, pigs, and chickens; and develop enormous markets for other grain-based products, including ethanol. (About 40 percent of American-grown corn in 2016 was turned into ethanol; 37 percent was used to fatten livestock or ended up damaged or miscounted; and a minuscule fraction entered the human diet, mostly as corn syrup.)

Growing grain this way requires huge amounts of fossil fuel to power farm machinery and to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer (accounting for as much as 3 percent of the world’s carbon emissions). And every time you till and replant, you loosen and tear up the topsoil. As a result, millions of tons of soil erode into the nation’s waterways every year, carrying pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers with them, contributing to a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and polluting waterways all over the Midwest.

Read more at The Nation

Climitigation: Why we must act to reverse climate change through mitigation

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Climitigation is a science-based, politically neutral think tank dedicated to mitigating climate change. There are many organizations, governments and people working on stopping or slowing the release of CO2 in the atmosphere, but we do not think there is enough of a focus on the alternatives ways to combat climate change. We want to put a focus on the mitigating or reversing of climate change by highlighting the technologies, ideas, companies, and people that are less discussed or on the vanguard, but that could make a significant impact on the problem. There are technologies and ideas, some in progress and some not yet in existence, that will radically shift the current equation on climate change back to neutral or in even in our favor and the goal here at Climitigation is to facilitate, foment and put a spotlight on those technologies and ideas that we think will be most impactful, so they can reach their full potential

Examples of some techniques, ideas, and companies we will highlight, include:

  • Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – which is basically using nature’s natural process of carbon capture in plants, but then instead of allowing the plants to decompose, turning them into a charcoal and burying it underground.
  • Accelerating the weathering process of limestone and other rocks, which then causes a natural capturing of CO2 and also mitigates ocean acidification. This paper details a technique on how spreading a reasonable amount of the mineral olivine on the worlds 2% most energetic beaches might counteract a year’s global CO2 emissions.
  • Direct Air Capture is a technique that does exactly what it sounds like, captures air and then removes the CO2 from it. In June 2017 the world’s first commercial plant capturing carbon was opened in Zurich. It was created by Climeworks, whose stated goal is to “capture 1 percent of the world’s global CO2 emissions.
  • Nuclear Diamonds

Stay tuned and sign up for updates as our future reports will include greatly expanded technologies, discussion, and calculations. We can’t wait to get into more exotic techniques, like nuclear diamond batteries or advanced nuclear fusion generating techniques like polywells.