Articles, Blog

Diamond Nuclear Batteries Are Forever… Sort Of

September 11, 2019


Since the early 1900s, researchers have been
working on ways to turn radioactive material into an electric current that lasts.. for
decades. Yeah, that’s right. We’re talking about nuclear batteries! This class of batteries is known as betavoltaics,
and they’re powered by the beta-decay of a radioactive material—hence the name. Beta particles are basically just high-energy
electrons, so setting a beta-emitting material up next to a semiconductor is virtually all
you need to get an electric current in motion. Though their power output can be pretty low
(we’re talkin’ less than an AA battery), they last as long as it takes the material
to decay. And since radioactive materials can have half-lives
of centuries to millennia, that means batteries that could last for decades without any noticeable
power loss. As an aside, betavoltaics are different from
the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (or RTGs) that NASA uses for space missions. Those are powered by the HEAT of radioactive
materials, like plutonium, instead of beta particles directly—and are also sometimes
referred to as nuclear batteries. But betavoltaics can be made smaller and safer
than RTGs, and with the incredibly long lifetimes that nuclear promises. Back in 1954, the Radio Corporation of America
announced the development of their first betavoltaic battery. And at the time, it was a big deal. RCA imagined them being used in wristwatches,
hearing aids, and radios. And in the February 1954 issue of LIFE magazine,
RCA even compared their invention to Edison’s lightbulb. But, while lightbulbs are literally everywhere,
I would wager you probably don’t own a device that runs on nuclear batteries. Today, betavoltaics are mainly used in deep
space and military applications- far away from the average consumer. And there are a lot of factors involved as
to why that is, but a big one is safety. Like I said before, betavoltaics are safer
than other nuclear power systems, but some beta-emitting materials can still be pretty
dangerous. For example, RCA’s prototype from 1954 ran
on Strontium-90, exposure to which can cause leukemia. And even though their battery was coated with
radiation blocking materials, it still probably wasn’t the safest thing to hand off to anyone
walking down the street. But we’ve come a long way! In recent years, several research teams have
been looking for a way to safely harness the power of betavoltaics. And one team at the University of Bristol
is making one out of DIaMonDZ! We talked to Dr. Neil Fox, who’s developing
a new prototype made out of carbon-14, a naturally-occurring radioisotope that’s in our atmosphere and
in all living things.. It’s also a common nuclear power plant waste
material. [Dr. Neil Fox ] “So our research has really
been about looking for ways to repurpose that material, so that it effectively can be recycled. And carbon-14 is a particularly attractive
one because it’s not really on the list of really nasty radioisotopes. It’s a fairly, friendly material to work
with..” Fox’s team isolated Carbon-14 and synthesized
a diamond out of it. In doing so, they created a radioactive diamond
that could produce an electric current(!!). Granted, it’s a small one- not enough to
power your phone. But it IS enough to power smoke detectors,
emergency signs, IoT devices, sensors in jet engines or deep sea cables, and even e-readers. And it could power all of those things for
decades, without needing to be replaced. As for safety?–
[Dr. Neil Fox] “It is totally safe because we’re talking about a device which is made
of diamond. The radioactive part is actually diamond as
well And all of the radiation, all of the power of the device is completely absorbed
by the diamond structure around it.” But perhaps one of the most impactful applications
of this battery is for medical implants. Today, they largely rely on lithium ion batteries,
but those have limitations. [Dr. Neil Fox ] “I mean there’s some little
girl, she has to have some fairly intrusive surgery on her hearing implant every 26 days
they have to change the battery on this thing… We’re constantly getting emails from people
who’ve got all sorts of implants…So if you can provide them with a solution where
it’s fitted to last for decades, even for a lifetime, that’s got to be worth something.” So, today’s nuclear batteries might not
be what scientists imagined back in the 1950s, but a nuclear diamond battery that could go
inside you? Still pretty dang cool if you ask me. For more on the science of batteries, check
out this playlist, and let us know down in the comments if there are any other battery
topics you want us to cover! As always, thanks for watching, and I’ll
see you next time on Seeker.

100 Comments

  • Reply Seeker March 19, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Hey, battery babes! 🔋💎 Have any battery research you want us to cover in future episodes? (Or battery scientists you want us to interview?) We're always looking for video ideas, so let us know below!

  • Reply martin11844 June 10, 2019 at 7:24 am

    what about the possibility of feeding the battery to also make another- or more things

  • Reply Roguishly Handsome June 13, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    Imagine being killed for the battery in your pacemaker…

  • Reply Euclidean Plane June 20, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    this reminds me of an evangelion episode

  • Reply Euclidean Plane June 20, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    2:31 cahmoooooon

  • Reply aisha jones June 26, 2019 at 10:57 pm

    A few billion can probably power a house

  • Reply Solowarrior1221 June 30, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Nuclear power is the future whether we like it or not. We didn't give up on fire the first time we got burned did we? No and we shouldn't give up on nuclear power either for the same reasons.

  • Reply Poralisium1337 July 5, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    When will obsidian/bedrock nuclear battery will exist?

  • Reply Gabriel Aragão July 13, 2019 at 4:08 am

    Omg this is so cool i want a diamond battery

  • Reply efi rizaki July 13, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    FALLOUT lll

  • Reply OnlyOnePerson July 14, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Ok..mr freeze

  • Reply CUBETechie July 18, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    So how big will the battery be to power a 100kw electric car? Smaller or bigger than the lithium Ion battery?

  • Reply Sanders Kaur July 27, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    Super fluid

  • Reply Armie of One August 5, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    This is basically the atomic battery technology in Asimov’s Foundation series. 🙂

  • Reply fgfgfgf drtduud August 13, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    I want a phone I don't need to charge.

  • Reply fgfgfgf drtduud August 13, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    Half-life or GTFO.

  • Reply Shibli Ziadeh August 18, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    I don't care, you still talking about nuclear and I don't care what the scientists are saying that they are or will be safe. What a crock of shit.

  • Reply AR极乐世界 August 24, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    3:57

  • Reply Skyscreer Reaver August 29, 2019 at 11:57 am

    DiaMondZ!

  • Reply Ghost Killer August 31, 2019 at 2:01 am

    Duracell and Energizer will assassinate you lol

  • Reply justinchad109 September 1, 2019 at 2:31 am

    I'm not using this

  • Reply Aaron Ameer Beg September 2, 2019 at 9:52 am

    don't know why
    but the shape of the diamond presented had me thinking more…
    Chaos Emerald XD

  • Reply 786otto September 2, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Dilithium crystals.

  • Reply 612Tiberius September 3, 2019 at 8:48 am

    "Atomic battery's to power; turbine's to speed."
    "Roger, ready to move out!"

  • Reply Sandy J Renfroe September 3, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Oooo, that would be completely awesome!

  • Reply Joel Moodie September 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Pocket watches that never die!

  • Reply psycleen September 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    joule theif

  • Reply Dennis Kwasnycia September 4, 2019 at 12:51 am

    I need some of these for my discman. Anti-skip eats batteries like crazy. Also, I'm a time traveller from the past… people still use portable cd players right?

  • Reply Akash Joshi September 4, 2019 at 10:12 am

    relay good invention

  • Reply scott moore September 4, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    My wife has a pacemaker that is great.

  • Reply James Sun September 5, 2019 at 6:56 am

    Tatoo used to be forbidden for presenters of any broadcast. Different Time, I guess

  • Reply Juan September 5, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    And here I thought using crystals to power lightsabers in Star Wars was ridiculous 😂

  • Reply svenm sandity September 5, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    so you say but if it can actually power a e reader it can power calling and with a cloud of everything it could potentially power storageless media to a os chip that doesnt save anything

  • Reply Luper ionic September 6, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Material science back at it again!

  • Reply Arthur Zettel September 6, 2019 at 2:19 am

    You know this meterial that is synthesized into diamond batteries sounds alot like the SyFy Dylithium Crystals from Star-Trek.
    You know I believe now we are going to be on our way to WARP DRIVE. Get 50 lbs. of these Diamond Batteries together in a sequentialized order and it could (Theoretically) pack one hell of a punch.

  • Reply Mikiness Analog September 6, 2019 at 4:12 am

    I had to stop the video halfway as: It is really difficult? To hear someone speak? As if every sentence is a question?

  • Reply Falken Vir September 6, 2019 at 6:05 am

    LIGHTSABEEER…….!!!!

  • Reply Clay More September 6, 2019 at 6:11 am

    A crystalline nuclear battery, a crystalline processor, and AI.

    Hmmm I think this goes a little past "SkyNet"

  • Reply Daniel West September 6, 2019 at 7:45 am

    So basically they have technology but we will never have it because repeat purchases make more money!
    No money to made from a cure, only a on going treatment.

  • Reply Thai Vang September 7, 2019 at 12:30 am

    Well, if they are weaker than 1 battery but if thousand and million of together, they can generate a lot.

  • Reply Z L September 7, 2019 at 1:50 am

    The start of ZPM technology

  • Reply jaylove5555 September 7, 2019 at 3:15 am

    Sadly I thought she was talking about fish.

  • Reply NickLigiRl September 7, 2019 at 3:29 am

    Ofc they didn't talk about the price

  • Reply John Carlson September 7, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Gimme gimme gimme

  • Reply Gabriel Soria September 7, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    I wonder the amperage for a given size. It could be used internally to trickle charge and/or assist in powering a device.

    Unfortunately it's probably near nothing in comparison to even the most anemic phone and it's radios. But!! Maybe a watch 🙂 it would be a killer smart watch with e-ink.

  • Reply Deivid Rumiancew September 7, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Woooowww, the my dreamed future is coming! Put a smile on my face

  • Reply prasanmit nath September 7, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    can u cover a video on liquid metal batteries

  • Reply Jesus Eternal Son September 7, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Reason is carbon tax because the rich Fiat money will lose their wealth so they keep destroying the earth because fossil fuel is a protection of earth’s core from extreme the inner heat and earthquakes that have increased to almost 1000 each month around the world 🌎.

    They can also do energy tax but there is no one to claim Nicola Tesla. If America does that their lie will be exposed so they know it but they tried thru Barak Obama but his lies did not go so far as well.

    Revelation 2:17

  • Reply Dissonance Paradiddle September 7, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    So proud of you increasingly clever humans

  • Reply Ashwood Heathen September 7, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Will never happen. Just look at the kind of money battery companies make.

  • Reply Max Payne September 8, 2019 at 12:21 am

    3:18 I don't know rick, looks too good to ge true

  • Reply Ryan Lim September 8, 2019 at 2:00 am

    looks like fallout 4

  • Reply Ariful Islam Fahim September 8, 2019 at 3:00 am

    Thanos looking for this crystal

  • Reply vinzent1992 September 8, 2019 at 5:33 am

    2:57 I would be pretty embarrassed if that was my solder work on display there 😛 #cold-solder-joint

  • Reply Kewlzter TC September 8, 2019 at 6:05 am

    These need to be inside TV remotes.

  • Reply Loli4lyf September 8, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Using this for watches would be cool

  • Reply Ananthu Shine September 8, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    you can use plutonium instead of carbon on implants and it will technically last the users lifetime

  • Reply felix mikolai September 8, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Cyborg hearts of the Future yay

  • Reply Jo L September 8, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    How about batteries that can store solar, wind, and thermal energy for future use?

  • Reply Brigham richins September 8, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Isn't beta radiaton the radiation that can be stopped by something like a blanket or a thin layer of cloth?

  • Reply glen beanard September 8, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    Ok.. so, if we were to make a nuclear diamond battery bank as large as a football field, bury it deep… How much could we do with this in terms of powering a neighbor hood… A village… A small town? Or just a single house.

  • Reply Lineage2Ertheia September 8, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    I love it that seeker has only wahmen now. Sooo equal!

  • Reply Gabriel Coleman September 8, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Ok so what about older style cellphones? It seems we got spoiled with all our high end gadgets. Smart phones are great, and have many uses, but I am sure a lot of people would go for a low tech cellphone that can last decades without charging.

    Also what about a battery pack that slowly recharges itself when not in use. Sort of a hybrid technology? You can still "fast charge" by plugging in, or slow charge if you have no close by power source.

    Or a cellphone with a high and low power mode. You always can make a call, but you can use gps, internet, etc, by plugging it in or letting it charge with this, slow charge mode?

  • Reply PythonPlusPlus September 8, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Hmm, how many diamond batteries does it take to power a smartphone?

  • Reply Edgar Cardenas September 9, 2019 at 2:12 am

    Interesting study, perhaps one of the most exciting..however anyone try to test those batteries sumerge in water….sometime it could happen they rent to explode or implode depend on the conditions

  • Reply Scarshi September 9, 2019 at 2:55 am

    So jewellery that can potentially power a watch. Jewellery stores sell both. Hmm.

  • Reply MrSamvirk September 9, 2019 at 5:29 am

    Today: people robbed for diamonds.

    Future: people getting killed for diamonds

  • Reply Nicholas Brown September 9, 2019 at 7:08 am

    Your cell phone in a males pocket everyday for a few years will kill the males reproductive system… making him sterile. . Neutering him essentially… making him shoot blanks. And that's just from the cell phone signal frequency. I don't trust a lot of sh*t anymore. No one really knows that fact as well even though evert single cell phone "fine print disclaimer " has it on the about phone section in the phone.

  • Reply zoran pocrnja September 9, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Mix up diamond z with ultracaps,;!

  • Reply Science Troll September 9, 2019 at 8:07 am

    What a stupid thoughtless bitch.

  • Reply The clan 2.0 September 9, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Stop trying to sound overwhelmed , its pissing me off .

  • Reply Stuart Bowmer September 9, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Diamond 💎 battery 🔋 heart 💓

  • Reply Vohasiiv September 9, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    A crystal that creates power, sounds like sci-fi or fantasy

  • Reply Sprink Hole September 9, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    Girls have been sticking batteries inside themselves for decades…

  • Reply Jeremy Hall September 10, 2019 at 4:12 am

    I could listen to her talk about batteries forever.

  • Reply star cruiser September 10, 2019 at 4:42 am

    The host has a really irritating unscientific accent.

  • Reply J C September 10, 2019 at 5:33 am

    if you voices climbing up at the end of each and every sentences it seems like a Question?

  • Reply Welchia Nachi September 10, 2019 at 7:01 am

    Those diamonds would be perfect for Marie Curie engagement ring from Pierre. She would be extremely grateful.

  • Reply Chipmunk September 10, 2019 at 8:44 am

    Thanos wants to know your location.

  • Reply SAD September 10, 2019 at 9:02 am

    We are close to real iron man technology

  • Reply Prima Uno September 10, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Iron man : thats ancient..

  • Reply Laced_ IntentionZ September 10, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Imagine watching videos on your phone without seeing the 20 percent battery power pop up and not replacing chargers every week

  • Reply Howdy Justice September 10, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Sorry babe, I need that ring back to power the smoke detector. FOREVER.

  • Reply Nicolas Sicard - Personne n'en parle September 10, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    Don't they use wireless charging for implants now?

  • Reply VAMobMember September 10, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    This would be a great use for nuclear waste

  • Reply James Ricker September 10, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    Someone let me know six months before these things are perfected and become easily Mass producible. Because I will invest in Tesla

  • Reply John Doe September 10, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    So one day somebody will get the chance to have a nuclear powered heart, awesome!.

  • Reply Alex Van Sant September 11, 2019 at 2:04 am

    diamond batteries… so ummm wat

  • Reply Stewart Hamilton September 11, 2019 at 4:55 am

    Pretty dang cool is a good start to change things as stupid words used in a serious context don't mix.

  • Reply lolo O September 11, 2019 at 4:59 am

    Dont even try Humans!!! We can’t even use guns properly…. we gonna end up kill more

  • Reply lakshay dhami September 11, 2019 at 6:06 am

    talk about graphene batteries please

  • Reply utku arda akıncı September 11, 2019 at 7:41 am

    "without any noticeable power loss"?? That is not right at all. Radioactive materials tends to decay half of its mass every "x" year and this amount is defined as half life(Just like stated in the video) of the material. If we think logically, this means every time the material loses its original atoms' mass in their next half life the output material will be getting lesser and lesser. So the Beta particles that will come out to provide current won't be sufficient after an amount of time even after the matter experiences its first half life period.

  • Reply will brito September 11, 2019 at 7:54 am

    cough cough…Iron Man

  • Reply Andrei Besleaga September 11, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    I feel like we would've gotten astonishing medical breakthroughs if mafia-like groups like big-pharma, oil industry, battery industry, etc were not let to do whatever the heck they wanted.

  • Reply 9,999,999,999 views September 11, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Betavoltaics

    I like that word

  • Reply James Skarie September 11, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Medtronic used a nuclear battery in the 70s. I think some people still have them implanted and they still work. http://www.implantable-device.com/2011/12/24/medtronics-atomic-pacemaker-1970/

  • Reply Historical Icons September 11, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Anyone who says sort of should be punched in the vagina.

  • Reply Scott Sloop September 11, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    A LOT of exit signs in the 80s were powered by betas. Dyson (the vacuum guy) says he will have a crystal based battery for cars within about 2 years.

  • Reply James Chance September 11, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Hmmmmm….perhaps Graphine for storage batteries?

  • Reply Lord Gospodin September 11, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    I would like to go inside of you, not diamond battery 😂😉

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