Diamond Are More Than a Girl’s Best Friend
Scientists at the Cabot Institute of the University of Bristol in the UK have discovered that they can turn nuclear waste into small batteries that last for thousands of years.
Graphite blocks used to “moderate” nuclear reactors become themselves radioactive and must eventually be disposed of, at considerable expense. But this radioactive graphite can be transformed into small black diamonds that naturally give off a small electrical current.
The outer layer of the radioactive graphite is just carbon 14, a trace isotope of carbon used to determine the age of items made originally from living material. An example would be the Shroud of Turin, made from linen, that by carbon 14 dating seems to have been woven in the mid-fourteenth century.
Carbon 14 is created in the atmosphere when nitrogen is exposed to cosmic rays. The nitrogen is then ingested by living entities, like plants, and starts decaying, with a half-life of 5730 years. Since the carbon 14 became part of the plant when it was alive, the remaining portion of the “not yet” radioactively decayed carbon 14 reveals the age of the item being dated.
The Cabot Institute scientists noticed that the radioactive Carbon 14 in used nuclear reactor graphite blocks was concentrated on the surface of the graphite blocks, meaning it could be removed by heating up the blocks, presumably in a vacuum chamber. The liberated carbon 14 gas could then be formed into black diamonds by a high pressure and high temperature process.
Since diamonds naturally emit smalls currents in the presence of a radioactive source, these radioactive diamonds produce their own currents, and they do so for at least the time necessary for the carbon 14 to decay by 50%, which is 5730 years.
These diamonds are black and are called diamond batteries. Such batteries would be emitting 50% of their peak current in the year 7746.
The decay process for carbon 14 is beta minus decay, with the electron emitted not travelling very far, but by encapsulating the radioactive source in a diamond shell, the diamond battery ends up less radioactive than a banana. Furthermore, this diamond over diamond encapsulation makes the radioactive diamond battery nearly 100% efficient.
While the radioactive diamond battery as currently envisioned has far less energy output than a AA battery, its lifetime energy output is considerably more. Furthermore, the battery essentially never needs to be replaced.
Envisioned applications for these batteries include high latitude drones, pacemakers, and deep space robotic spacecraft.
Mommy, Mommy and Daddy
Recently, three children are known to have been conceived using a controversial in vitro fertilization (IVF) technique known as three person IVF.
The technique is thought to be a godsend to mothers that carry a gene that results in mitochondrial disease, where their children’s cellular mitochondria do not function properly.
Mitochondria are the parts of our cells that are responsible for converting food particles into ATP, the energy source for all cells except red blood cells. If a child’s mitochondria are not properly performing this energy conversion, the child is likely to suffer serious motor function problems, and may even suffer organ failure.
Mothers to be have turned to three person IVF as an answer to their prayers. One technique involves taking good mitochondria from another female and placing it in the fertilized egg of the birth mother. That egg is then placed in the birth mother’s womb.
The resultant baby is thought to carry the genetic traits of the birth mother and father, but without inheriting the faulty mitochondria. Further these children, if female, cannot pass on the faulty mitochondria to their children, a process known as germline modification.
The Spangler Effect
You may have noticed that the you tube science guy Steve Spangler now has his own tv show on Fox called DIY SCI, but there are still many Spangler Effect videos on you tube to enjoy.