Of course, the batteries have a major drawback: they're still highly radioactive. No problem. The Bristol team has come up with a way to encase the radioactive diamond inside a larger inert diamond in such a way that energy is still generated, but the radioactivity is blocked. The newly encased diamond has less radioactivity than a banana, according to the video. Evidently, bananas are the standard metric for this sort of thing.
"There are no moving parts, no maintenance and no emissions, just direct electricity generation. And since diamond is the hardest substance known to man, no other material could easily offer any more protection to the radioactive carbon-14."
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Now, to the caveats. The Bristol team's prototype diamond battery uses a radioactive isotope of nickel as the radiation source instead of carbon-14. But research data suggest carbon will work just as well, if not better, than the nickel, according to the Bristol team.
Also, the amount of electricity generated by the diamond battery is very small, only about 15 joules to the gram. By comparison, a standard AA battery produces about 700 joules to the gram.
The main advantage of the diamond battery is longevity, said Bristol University representative Aliya Mughal in an email exchange. The diamond battery might only put out a fraction of the energy of a standard battery, but with a half-life of 5,730 years, it will put out millions upon millions of joules of energy over that time period.
"We envision these batteries to be used in situations where it is not feasible to charge or replace conventional batteries," said Bristol researcher Tom Scott, in press materials accompanying the announcement. "Obvious applications would be in low-power electrical devices where long life of the energy source is needed, such as pacemakers, satellites, high-altitude drones or even spacecraft."
The researchers are actively looking for other applications, too, and are asking the public to send any ideas via Twitter with the hashtag #diamondbattery.
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