The heart of each cell is a small piece of recycled nuclear waste. NDB uses graphite nuclear reactor parts that have absorbed radiation from nuclear fuel rods and have themselves become radioactive. Untreated, it’s high-grade nuclear waste: dangerous, difficult and expensive to store, with a very long half-life.
This graphite is rich in the carbon-14 radioisotope, which undergoes beta decay into nitrogen, releasing an anti-neutrino and a beta decay electron in the process. NDB takes this graphite, purifies it and uses it to create tiny carbon-14 diamonds. The diamond structure acts as a semiconductor and heat sink, collecting the charge and transporting it out. Completely encasing the radioactive carbon-14 diamond is a layer of cheap, non-radioactive, lab-created carbon-12 diamond, which contains the energetic particles, prevents radiation leaks and acts as a super-hard protective and tamper-proof layer.
To create a battery cell, several layers of this nano-diamond material are stacked up and stored with a tiny integrated circuit board and a small supercapacitor to collect, store and instantly distribute the charge. NDB says it’ll conform to any shape or standard, including AA, AAA, 18650, 2170 or all manner of custom sizes.
And so what you get is a tiny miniature power generator in the shape of a battery that never needs charging – and that NDB says will be cost-competitive with, and sometimes significantly less expensive than – current lithium batteries. That equation is helped along by the fact that some of the suppliers of the original nuclear waste will pay NDB to take it off their hands.
Radiation levels from a cell, NDB tells us, will be less than the radiation levels produced by the human body itself, making it totally safe for use in a variety of applications. At the small scale, these could include things like pacemaker batteries and other electronic implants, where their long lifespan will save the wearer from replacement surgeries. They could also be placed directly onto circuit boards, delivering power for the lifespan of a device.
In a consumer electronics application, NDB’s Neel Naicker gives us an example of just how different these devices would be: “Think of it in an iPhone. With the same size battery, it would charge your battery from zero to full, five times an hour. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you wouldn’t have to charge your battery at all for the day. Now imagine for…
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