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.”