It’s the most unlikely bling since scientists worked out how to create canary yellow gems from human ashes. British researchers have found that nuclear waste can be converted into radioactive black diamonds that can be used as batteries lasting thousands of years. The scientists behind the discovery say that it tackles the problems of nuclear decommissioning, clean electricity generation and battery life. The batteries could last 5,000 years, powering equipment such as pacemakers and spacecraft components that need to last for long periods with absolute reliability. Tom Scott, a physics professor at the University of Bristol, said: “There are no moving parts, 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.” Britain has almost 95,000 tonnes of spent graphite blocks, used to house uranium rods in nuclear reactors. Extracting carbon-14 from the blocks’ surface decreases their radioactivity, reducing the long-term cost of safely storing the waste by billions of pounds. When the blocks are heated, much of the radioactive carbon is given off as gas. This can be collected and converted into radioactive diamonds using a high-temperature chemical reaction, in which carbon atoms are deposited on to a surface in small, dark-coloured diamond crystals.
Times 2nd Dec 2016 read more »