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Nano diamond batteries from nuclear waste? Impractical and not likely to ever happen

Arkenlight “surprised” by NDB’s grand nuclear diamond battery claims, New Atlas By Loz Blain, September 30, 2020  Totally safe, self-charging batteries that generate power for thousands of years … It’s an exciting thought, and when we wrote about California’s NDB in August, the story generated all kinds of feedback. A lot of people felt some of NDB’s claims were outrageously false, contravening the laws of physics and vastly overstating the capabilities of a device that was already well understood.

To briefly recap, the device in question is what NDB calls the nano diamond battery. This is also known as the nuclear diamond battery, a technology first developed at the University of Bristol. The concept is this: you take particular types of nuclear waste from nuclear power stations – specifically parts of the graphite moderators and reflectors that have been exposed to fuel rod radiation and that have themselves become radioactive in the form of carbon-14. ………
The claims that caused the uproar were around the technology’s utility in consumer devices. NDB representatives told us in an interview that if the company made one of these cells the same size as an iPhone battery, “it would charge your battery from zero to full, five times an hour,” for decades. They said they could replace the battery in a Tesla electric car with something slightly more powerful that’d last some 90 years without ever needing a charge, and would come in cheaper than a standard Tesla battery……..
Commenters – and indeed YouTube debunkers – called us out for publishing these claims, saying that carbon-14 simply can’t produce energy fast enough to be useful in a device that requires sustained high power draws. The diamond part of the battery would charge up the supercapacitor so slowly, they pointed out, that either you’d need a much, much larger quantity of it, or you’d need to find applications that give the supercapacitor a long time to charge itself up between high-power discharges. The idea of using one in a phone or a car, they said, was laughable.

IWe ended up having a very informative chat with Morgan Boardman, an Industrial Fellow and Strategic Advisory Consultant with the Aspire Diamond Group at the South West Nuclear Hub of the University of Bristol.

He is also – and this is much less of a tongue twister – the CEO of a new company called Arkenlight, which has been created to commercialize the Bristol team’s diamond battery technologies, among other radioisotope-driven power sources.

In short, Boardman broadly agreed with the position that these “betabatteries” produce power far too slowly to replace the cells in your iPhone or Tesla; yes, you could build a betabattery for a phone or a vehicle, but only if you’re prepared to have the battery be several times the size of the device it’s powering.

What’s more, he pointed out that the University of Bristol took out patents covering all devices that embed radioisotopes in diamond structures, and that Arkenlight now holds those patents. So if NDB is talking about using the same kind of nuclear diamond technology – which it sure sounds like it is – it could have some licensing issues ahead of it.

So it seems it’s time to pump the brakes on some of NDB’s more exciting claims  ………..

October 3, 2020 - Posted by | business and costs, Reference, technology, USA

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