As we carry phones that function as small computers in our pockets, science fiction has become reality. Even as technology advances, we are hampered by the power source that powers the technology, limiting the benefits these devices represent. The clock starts ticking the moment we turn on a device, as the battery degrades and loses capacity. Making sure a battery is charged and ready to go is a hassle on a daily basis, and we all forget to plug it in overnight from time to time.
As a content creator with cameras, drones, tablets, microphones, and other devices to charge, it can be a chore to ensure that all of my electronics work when I need them. To make matters worse, replacing the battery in many phones and other mobile devices is difficult, if not impossible. However, a solution is on the way. A battery revolution will occur soon, utilizing an unlikely combination of nuclear waste and diamonds.
Batteries cause numerous issues from the start to the end of our electronics’ life cycles. Mining for lithium and other components of today’s batteries is a dirty, destructive business, as is refining these rare materials. As demand grows, these effects will wreak havoc on more and more of our wild landscapes, potentially with disastrous consequences.
When our batteries die, they and the devices they power are all too often discarded in landfills. Our electronic waste is sometimes shipped overseas, where it is ineptly salvaged or burned and ends up in the air and water. Only a small percentage of our discarded electronics are recycled responsibly. Such waste could be drastically reduced if batteries did not degrade so quickly.
Nuclear batteries have to be the most exciting new battery technology being developed today. Such batteries would not only have the potential to last dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of years, but they would also generate their own power through radiation. In the not-too-distant future, our batteries may not only outlast our phones and possibly outlive us, but they will never need to be recharged.
As if the idea of nuclear batteries couldn’t get any weirder, the ones that might one day be found in our phones and cars would be made of artificial nanodiamonds. To say that the science behind these nanodiamond batteries is complicated would be an understatement. To put it simply, radioactive elements are extracted from nuclear waste and encased in diamonds via chemical vapor deposition. The diamond then serves as a transducer, converting the radiation into electricity.
Nuclear batteries, in addition to their longevity and self-charging capability, would revolutionize smartphone design. They would eliminate the need for charging ports, allowing phones to be fully waterproof and much tougher than ever before. It’s also possible that as artificial diamonds become less expensive to produce, our phones will be diamond-coated and thus practically indestructible.
These nuclear batteries could potentially power every electronic device we use today, not just phones. From smartwatches and earbuds to cars, drones, and even robots, technology has advanced dramatically. When you think about it, nanodiamond batteries have the potential to transform many aspects of our technology that are currently being held back by the limitations of our current, deeply flawed battery design.
Diamond batteries could also be a solution to the long-neglected problem of nuclear waste disposal from fission power plants. There are massive amounts of this extremely dangerous material all over the world, and storing or disposing of it is prohibitively expensive. This waste, however, is high in energy and will power the nuclear batteries that NDB is developing.
Even if we have to wait five to ten years for this technology to become commonplace, that is a very short period of time for such a revolutionary advancement. Of course, it’s also worth noting how volatile cutting-edge technology like this can be. However, given that the science behind it is sound, and that minor implementations of these batteries are already in use, I see good reason to be optimistic that one day soon our batteries will last longer than our phones and will never need to be recharged.