Recycling from nuclear reactors for battery benefits

IOM3 Content Cafe
23 Mar 2020
Anthony Hollingsworth researching diamond battery technology at the H3AT facility

A project to make diamond batteries, which could provide decades worth of energy without a recharge, is underway as scientists at the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKEA) work with academics at the University of Bristol, UK. Computer chips, smoke alarms, pacemakers, or small satellites could all be operated by such a device.

Tritium scientists at UKAEA’s Hydrogen-3 Advanced Technology facility (H3AT) are at the early stages of establishing a pilot project which may result in a production line for the diamond batteries. The battery would be powered by small amounts of graphite from former nuclear reactors – presenting the opportunity to recycle both carbon-14 and tritium into micro-power diamond devices. Each battery would be very small. Estimates suggest 50kg of carbon-14 would be sufficient for millions of units.

Professor Tom Scott from the University of Bristol initially helped to develop the technology utilising the electrical properties of diamond to produce diamond batteries. The devices operate in a similar way to the photovoltaics used in solar panels but these devices will harness fast electrons from within the diamond structure rather than using particles of light.

Diodes producing power from carbon-14 beta particles have already been demonstrated on a small scale at the University of Bristol. Work has trialled the placing of deuterium into this diamond structure the next step is to try tritium.