British scientists have tested a prototype of a diamond battery operating on the principle of an RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator), the raw material for which is spent graphite rods from old nuclear power plants. The source of this material will be the storage facilities at Berkeley in Gloucestershire, the UK’s first commercial nuclear power plant that was decommissioned in 1989. After 30 years, the radiation level in this zone has decreased enough for the authorities to give the go-ahead for the construction of an experimental workshop on the territory of the nuclear power plant.
As such, the technology for processing graphite rods does not yet exist; a new laboratory is being built to test different methods. The idea is to take old radioactive lumps of graphite, extract the isotope carbon-14 from them and turn it into synthetic diamond. For example, by chemical vapor deposition, but these are exactly the nuances that have to be worked out and tested experimentally. Fortunately, the reserves of both graphite and other radioactive materials at the old nuclear power plant are in abundance – they were not buried, but simply left in the warehouse until better times.
Ulegrod-14 is interesting in that it has a half-life of almost 6,000 years, while constantly generating beta radiation of sufficient power to build a battery in the form of an RTG on its basis. It will be much weaker than its analogue on plutonium, but such low-power and extremely durable batteries are perfect for powering individual sensors and sensors. For example – used in all kinds of autonomous devices for space exploration.
It is the outer space that tempts British scientists, because a diamond is the ideal form for an “eternal” battery. Durable, heat-resistant, radiation-resistant and compact, the diamond energy source could become an artifact that will pave the way for Earth’s technology into the depths of space. And the planet has already accumulated a fair amount of raw materials for their production, in the form of nuclear power plant waste.