Thanks to a San Francisco-based startup, you could soon have a nuclear-powered battery for your smart devices. What’s more, it would keep your devices charged for your entire life. Yes, really. The battery, which is being developed by Nano Diamond Battery (NDB), is estimated to last for more than 28,000 years. That could end the need for the dreaded charging cable and provide us with lifelong clean and green energy.
The science and other stuff to know
Diamonds are exceptional conductors of heat. They are also one of the sturdiest naturally occurring elements, making them ideal for use in electronic devices. To build these battery packs, scientists use high-pressure gases to crystalize microscopic diamonds and deposit them onto a receiving material. Once the diamonds have been sourced, NDB enables their reaction with radioactive isotopes obtained from nuclear waste. As the reaction takes place, diamond crystals extract heat away from the radioactively decaying isotopes with such intensity that the exchange generates electricity.
“The decay sources deposit their energy onto the NDB transducer, which converts the kinetic energy of the incident radiation to electrical energy,” Nima Golsharifi, CEO of NDB, explained to Popular Science.
But while the prospects of a battery that could power all our devices for several millennia sounds promising, limitations remain, at least for now. Each battery cell that undergoes the nuclear reaction produces only a small amount of electricity. The problem? Powering larger devices would require stacking huge numbers of cells together, a move that could considerably raise the costs as well as the complexity of managing radioactive waste.
Despite the concern for safety and scalability, the technology could revolutionize the way energy is consumed. Even small-scale applications of nuclear diamond batteries — like in wristwatches, calculators, smartphones, toys, GPS devices, etc. — could curb the demand for new batteries and electricity.
This could also check the trend of hundreds of millions of disposable batteries making their way into landfills each year. There, they become non-biodegradable marks on the Earth’s surface that continue polluting their surroundings for hundreds of years.
Moreover, nuclear diamond batteries battery packs could prove exceptionally handy for use in devices that need continuous power, but only in a limited capacity. These include space exploration vehicles that operate for years on end without human intervention. NDB, also hopes the tech could be harnessed for widespread use in the medical industry — especially in applications such as pacemakers and hearing aids — to provide a steady and reliable lifelong supply of power.
Like most new technologies, NDB is more at the “what if” stage rather than the “what is”. Although the company says it would not rule out exploring the possibilities of powering larger machines, it’s going to test the waters with its smartwatch. It hopes it will be ready for market in the next few years. Given the increasing global demand for sustainable sources of energy, the time for NBD’s idea could have already arrived.
With its upcoming smartwatch, it will find out if it has the ‘power’ to change the world.