The UK-based researchers have established a company to capitalize on the idea of Radioactive Diamond Batteries. These batteries are produced using nuclear waste and can power small sensors for millennia.
The Future of Nuclear Batteries after the Dragon Egg
A small robot powered by a radioactive battery working at an active volcano was known as the Dragon Egg. For a material scientist like Tom Scott that opened up a world of opportunities. He focused on the battery of the dragon egg. His goal is to create a better nuclear-powered battery. One that can last a generation independent of being charged or replaced.
Common-everyday batteries generate electricity through chemical reactions. The battery Tom is working on collects particles released by radioactive diamonds and turns it into energy. These radioactive diamonds come from reformed nuclear waste.
Recently, Tom Scott and, a Bristol-based chemist, Niel Fox teamed up an started a company, Arkenlight. The goal of the company is to bring their idea of nuclear diamond batteries to life. The prototypes that have been made so far are already showing signs of improvement.
The prototypes are much more efficient and power-dense in comparison to the pre-existing ones. Once the prototypes are further developed and finalized, a mass-production facility will be set-up. The commercial launch of these batteries is planned for 2024. However, their use might not be as common as one might think.
How powerful are Nuclear Batteries?
Common every day “galvanic” batteries such as lithium-ion cells found in smartphones are good for a strong burst of energy for a short duration. Even alkaline batteries in a remote function in a similar manner. Without a recharge, a lithium-ion battery could only work for a few hours. After a couple of years, even the charge capacity will have gone down substantially.
However, nuclear batteries generate a smaller amount of power for a longer duration of time. If the right material is used then they power a small device for a thousand years. However, they might not be able to power a smartphone. Not at the moment, at least.
Range of Power
Can an electric vehicle be powered by nuclear batteries? Experts answer in the negative. In order to generate enough energy for something like an electric vehicle would require a much bigger battery. Putting it simply, the mass of the battery would have to be greater than the mass of the vehicle. So, at the moment the company is not focused on that end.
Instead, the company is focusing on applications where changing a battery is impossible or impractical. At least, on a regular basis. Things like sensors in remote or bio-hazard sports at nuclear waste repositories or on satellites are where the company is focused.
However, the batteries might be useful around the house even if they can not power up primary electronic devices. Wearable devices such as smart-watches can be powered using these batteries. Arkenlight’s vision for the future is that people end up changing products rather than batteries.
The concept is interesting and out-of-the-box. Not only is it practical, but it also helps further the green initiative. However, the real question at hand still stands. Will these batteries ever be able to power our smartphones, laptops, PCs, and consoles? That would be quite the dream. Never having to charge anything. Unlimited power for as long as you’re here.
Sadly, at the moment and for a good time into the foreseeable future, these nuclear batteries will not be powering such electronic devices. They’re focused on another range of electronic devices entirely. Smart-watches might be nuclear-battery powered but again, at the moment, this is not what the company is largely focused on.