Radiation-based battery keeps going for 28,000 years

August 31, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
Radiation-based battery keeps going for 28,000 years
NDB Inc. (Pleasanton, Calif.), a startup that is using recycled radioactive material to form a battery with thousands of years of life, has achieved a couple of independent proofs of its concept.

These proofs were conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore, Calif.) and by Professor Sir Michael Pepper at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University.

NDB – standing for Nano Diamond Battery – was founded in 2018 with a view to harnessing the energy of high-speed electrons found in recycled intermediate-level and high-level radioactive waste. Such waste has a tremendously long half-life, up to thousands of years and so radiation-based batteries could provide an energy source in many extreme circumstances, such as space, as well as more commonplace ones.

The physical structure of the battery is a layered combination of a semiconductor, metal and ceramic which has two contact surfaces to facilitate charge collection. Several single units are attached together to create a stack arrangement, which is fabricated to create a positive and negative contact surface similar to a conventional voltaic battery. Every layer of the DNV stack consists of a high-energy electron output source and single-crystal diamond laid down using semiconductor CVD.

If developed successfully such batteries could be used in fields such as automotive, consumer electronics, sensors, space machinery, and other electronics powered by a chemical battery.

One of the proofs was the achievement for NDB's battery structure of 40 percent charge, a significant improvement over commercial diamonds, which have 15 percent charge-collection efficiency. This is a result of NDB's proprietary nano-diamond surface treatment that eases the emission of electrons from the diamond, allowing the battery to make use of significantly more power than any other battery before it.

NDB's power source is from intermediate-level and high-level radioactive waste isotopes.The energy is absorbed in the diamond through inelastic scattering, which is used to generate electricity. Since the universal battery is self-charging, any excess charge can be stored in capacitors, supercapacitors and secondary cells.

To prevent over-heating and contain radiation with the device the DNV stack is coated with a layer of synthetic poly-crystalline diamond. The battery provides the charge for the entire lifetime of a device or machine, with up to 28,000 years of battery life, the company said.

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