Utilizing nuclear waste converted to diamonds, the company's batteries will reportedly last thousands of years in some cases.
- Nuclear reactor parts converted to radioactive carbon-14 diamonds produce energy.
- To keep them safe, the carbon-14 diamonds are encased in a second protective diamond layer.
- The company predicts batteries for personal devices could last about nine years.
Waste not<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU5NDQyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTIyNTQxOX0.LnHH-Uj9up_14gGLMii9OpWUj3qZ4kQ3aJ9vr3YNPBQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="db1dc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4d54eef4ec5902b331313218f4413738" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="NBD battery" />
NDB's battery as it might look as a circuit-board component
Image source: NDB<p>The nuclear waste from which NDB plans to make it batteries are reactor parts that have become radioactive due to exposure to nuclear-plant fuel rods. While not considered high-grade nuclear waste—that would be spent fuel—it's still very toxic, and there's a lot of it in a nuclear generator. According to the <a href="https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/32/039/32039321.pdf" target="_blank">International Atomic Energy Agency</a>, the "core of a typical graphite moderated reactor may contain 2000 tonnes of graphite." (A tonne is one metric ton, or about 2,205 lbs.)</p><p>The graphite contains the carbon-14 radioisotope, the same radioisotope used by archaeologists for carbon dating. It has a <a href="https://www.radioactivity.eu.com/site/pages/RadioCarbon.htm" target="_blank">half-life of 5,730 years</a>, eventually transmuting into <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2008/01/solving-carbon-14-mystery" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nitrogen 14</a>, an anti-neutrino, and a beta decay electron, whose charge piqued NDB's interest as a potential means of producing electricity.</p><p>NDB purifies the graphite and then turns it into tiny diamonds. Building on existing technology, the company says they've designed their little carbon-14 diamonds to produce a significant amount of power. The diamonds also act as a semiconductor for collecting energy, and as a heat sink that disperses it. They're still radioactive, though, so NDB encases the tiny nuclear power plants within other inexpensive, non-radioactive carbon-12 diamonds. These glittery lab-made shells serve as, well, diamond-hard protection at the same time as they contain the carbon-14 diamonds' radiation.</p><p>NDA plans to build batteries in a range of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_battery_sizes#Lithium-ion_batteries_(rechargeable)" target="_blank">standard</a>—AA, AAA, 18650, and 2170—and custom sizes containing several stacked diamond layers together with a small circuit board and a supercapacitor for collecting, storing, and discharging energy. The end result is a battery, the company says, that will last a <em>very</em> long time.</p><p>NDB predicts that if a battery is used in a low-power context, say, as a satellite sensor, it could last 28,000 years. As a vehicle battery, they anticipate a useful life of 90 years, much longer than any single vehicle will last—the company anticipates that one battery could conceivably provide power for one set of wheels after another. For consumer electronics such as phones and tablets, the company expects about nine years of use for a battery.</p><p>The company's prospective investor video explains their process in greater detail.</p>
Maybe a very big deal<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72e7ea41a1df50a12187f618eb343efc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ksMXbhftBbM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>"Think of it in an iPhone," NDB's Neel Naicker <a href="https://newatlas.com/energy/nano-diamond-battery-interview-ndb/?itm_source=newatlas&itm_medium=article-body" target="_blank">tells New Atlas</a>. "With the same size battery, it would charge your battery from zero to full, five times an hour. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you wouldn't have to charge your battery at all for the day. Now imagine for the week, for the month… How about for decades? That's what we're able to do with this technology."</p><p>NDB anticipates having a low-power commercial version on the market in a couple of years, followed by a high-powered version in about five. If all goes as planned, NDB's technology could constitute a major step forward, providing low-cost, long-term energy to the world's electronics and vehicles. The company says, "We can start at the nanoscale and go up to power satellites, locomotives."</p><p>The company also expects their batteries to be competitively priced compared to current batteries, including lithium ion, and maybe even cheaper once they're being produced at scale—owners of nuclear waste may even pay the company to take their toxic problem off their hands.</p><p>One company's waste becomes another's diamonds.</p>
In one of the ocean's most lifeless places, scientists discover and resuscitate ancient organisms.
- Seemingly dead microbes from 100 million years ago spring back to life.
- The microbes were buried deep beneath the Pacific's "Point Nemo."
- There's crushing pressure beneath the seabed, but these microbes apparently survived anyway.
There is a place in the South Pacific that's as far as you can get from land. This "oceanic pole of inaccessibility" lies beneath the South Pacific Gyre that covers 10 percent of Earth's ocean surface. It's so remote that spacecraft are regularly guided down into its waters at the end of their missions. Says NASA, "It's in the Pacific Ocean and is pretty much the farthest place from any human civilization you can find."
There's another reason, though, that this so-called "Point Nemo" isn't like anywhere else. It's an oceanic desert, about as devoid of standard marine life as any stretch of water can be. Nutrients from land can't reach it, and currents keep its waters isolated from the rest of the ocean. There's also an excess of ultraviolet light out there.
While there is some microbial life floating in the area, a team of scientists from Japan and the U.S. wanted to know if anything could possibly be living in the area's desolate seabed. What they found and retrieved were seemingly lifeless microbes trapped down there for 100 million years. It turns out that the tiny organisms are still alive after all this time —all they needed was food and oxygen.
"Our main question was whether life could exist in such a nutrient-limited environment, or if this was a lifeless zone," says study leader microbiologist Yuki Morono of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. "And we wanted to know how long the microbes could sustain their life in a near-absence of food." Apparently hundred of millions of years. Take that, tardigrades.
The research in published in the journal Nature Communications.
It's hardly a hospitable environment down there, and the weight of all that water above presses down hard on anything beneath it. Organisms trapped under this kind of pressure typically die and fossilize, given a million years or so. Still, for some reason, these microbes evaded that fate.
Co-author Steven D'Hondt, a geomicrobiologist from University of Rhode Island, says, "We knew that there was life in deep sediment near the continents where there's a lot of buried organic matter. But what we found was that life extends in the deep ocean from the seafloor all the way to the underlying rocky basement."
Morono (left) and D'Hondt (right) examining cores aboard JODIES Resolution.
Image source: IODP JRSO/University of Rhode Island
The microbes were brought up through 3.7 miles of water from the ocean bottom during the JOIDES Resolution drill ship's 2010 expedition to the Gyre. The researchers extracted samples from an array of sites and depths, including pelagic clay sediments as deep as 75 meters (246 feet) beneath the sea floor.
Examining the sediment cores on the ship, the researchers found small numbers of oxygen-consuming microbes in every sample from every depth. The samples were removed from the cores to see if their occupants could be resuscitated. They were given oxygen and their presumed food of choice, substrates of carbon and nitrogen, by syringe. The samples were then sealed in glass vials and incubated.
Growth of microbes after being fed carbon (top) and nitrogen (bottom)
Image source: Morono, et al
Vials were opened after 21 days, 6 weeks, and 18 months. Stunningly, up to 99 percent of the microbes were revived, even those from the deepest — and thus oldest — cores. Some had increased 10,000 times their number, consuming all of the carbon and nitrogen they'd been given.
The scientists could hardly believe what they were seeing. "At first I was skeptical, but we found that up to 99.1 % of the microbes in sediment deposited 101.5 million years ago were still alive and were ready to eat," recalls Morono.
A bottomless research opportunity
"It shows that there are no limits to life in the old sediment of the world's ocean," says D-Hondt. "In the oldest sediment we've drilled, with the least amount of food, there are still living organisms, and they can wake up, grow and multiply."
Some have suggested that the microbe may be more recent descendants of their 100-million-year-old ancestors, but D'Hondt says there isn't enough in the way of nutrients or energy down there to support cell division. That is, unless there's some other form of energy that has been overlooked, say, some form of radiation. "If they are not dividing at all, they are living for 100 million years, but that seems insane," he says.
American homes are big and polluting. Here's how to fix that.
- A new study on American homes finds that the homes of the wealthy use more energy than those of the poor.
- The findings also include reviews of energy use that can be used to help reduce the residential carbon footprint.
- The findings restate the important of a multi-faceted approach to solving climate change.
Big homes use more power, but the study goes beyond that.<p>Residential energy use is behind a fifth of American greenhouse gas emissions. This is a considerable amount; if treated as a country, it would rank above Germany in terms of total greenhouse gases produced. Any route to carbon neutrality must have an idea of how to reduce this amount. Despite this, data on carbon and energy intensity per meter of housing stock in each state has been lacking.</p><p>Given the potential usefulness of this information in formulating policies, the authors of this study collected data on 93 million homes. Not only did they compile and analyze data on the energy used in residences by state, but they also looked into other understudied areas, such as how exactly energy emission differs across income groups, how building density impacts emission rates, and how end-use changes the interpretation of data on energy use. </p><p>By combining information on housing stock age, type, heating systems, and how close it was to other units with data on local income, climate, sources of electricity, the authors created a variety of maps and models to show how energy is used today and estimate how it may be used in the future.</p> These maps show both the "energy intensity," defined as kilowatt-hours used per square meter of home, and the "Greenhouse Gas Intensity," defined as kilogram of CO₂ equivalent per square meter, by state:
Goldstein, Gounaridis, and Newell<p>The findings are in line with previous studies suggesting that heating and cooling take the largest part of home energy use. As the map makes clear, energy usage per unit area is higher in areas with more "degree days," which is the sum of daily average temperature deviation from 18°C (65°F). States where that sounds like a balmy day (Vermont, Maine, Wisconsin) used more energy for temperature control than states where that temperature is more typical (California, Florida, or Arizona).</p><p>The states with the highest GHG intensity are not just the ones with the highest energy intensity. This is caused by differences in the source of electricity between different parts of the national electric <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Electric_Reliability_Corporation" target="_blank">system</a>. In some states, the energy supply is more fossil fuel-based than in others. This relationship is demonstrated in the line graphs in the lower right. </p><p>The second line graph on the lower left also shows the relationship between the home's age and its average energy intensity. As you may have guessed, older homes are more energy-intensive than newer homes. While this might strike you as self-evident, we need to know and prove details like this if we want to make progress on cutting emissions and energy use. This data is especially important, given that most housing stock lasts forty years. Any new homes built to low energy efficiency standards will be around for a while. <br> </p> The study also dives into the relationships between emission rates, income, and housing density. By comparing maps of energy usage in Los Angles and Boston, two cities with very different climates and layouts, several important points become clear:
Goldstein, Gounaridis, and Newell<p>High emissions areas like Beverly Hills or Sudbury are known for their wealth; a relationship charted for both regions. More densely-packed areas have lower energy use per capita than comparatively spacious places. However, it is also clear that the old notion of wealthy suburbs far from downtown and relatively more impoverished urban areas is not as accurate as it once was, given the number of high-income regions near downtown LA.</p><p>However, these maps can't show everything. The Boston suburbs have municipal utilities that provide low carbon power, lowering their footprints. Likewise, as higher-density areas are associated with smaller carbon footprints, the existence of high-end apartment complexes for high-income earners slightly skews the data for some downtown areas. </p>
What can we do to fix this?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="8PLWDgcM" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="378380d273bf4a1c9606370acea15e58"> <div id="botr_8PLWDgcM_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/8PLWDgcM-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/8PLWDgcM-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/8PLWDgcM-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The authors compiled all of this information so that members of the public, regulators, construction firms, and elected officials can make the decisions needed to lower housing-related greenhouse gas emissions. They provide several ideas on how to use this data to inform our actions going forward.</p><p>They suggest that we continue and accelerate the decarbonization of the electric grid alongside a massive retrofitting program for older homes to increase their energy efficiency. Alone, these two efforts would get the U.S. to the 2025 goals of the Paris Agreement.</p><p>There is a problem, though. If we <em>only</em> do those two things, we won't reach the Paris Agreement's long-term goals. Continued in-home fossil fuel use to heat homes, such as natural gas heating systems, will produce too much carbon. The author's suggestions include increased use of heat pumps, solar water heaters, photovoltaics, and carbon-neutral fuels.</p><p>To keep the rate of emissions falling, the authors go beyond energy production and efficiency and consider the way American cities are built and the enormous size of the largest American homes. </p><p>They suggest reducing the typical American home's size per capita to levels comparable to those in other Western countries. Doing so would reduce the amount of energy needed to maintain the houses, in addition to other benefits. In the same vein, they suggest increasing the density of housing in new and existing developments. In their studies of Boston and Los Angeles, denser neighborhoods tend to be at or near the emissions goals for the Paris Agreement already.</p><p>Increasing the typical housing density across the country would reduce the average home size, and likely reduce the number of single-family homes compared to other types of housing, and would substantially reduce the needed energy per household. These need not be uninterrupted blocks of apartments, as the authors are quick to point out, but could also include detached and semi-detached households built close together.</p><p>However, even the highest densities modeled by the authors are at the low end of the estimated level needed to make mass public transit <a href="https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=cAafAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT19&dq=,+%E2%80%9CDriving+and+the+built+environment:+The+effects+of+compact+development+on+motorized+travel,+energy+use,+and+CO2+emissions%E2%80%9D+(Special+Report+298,+The+National+Academies+Press,+2009).&ots=tbSVQsFaCG&sig=aXA0q88dMRSL93H07_dh-Or2WdA#v=onepage&q=%2C%20%E2%80%9CDriving%20and%20the%20built%20environment%3A%20The%20effects%20of%20compact%20development%20on%20motorized%20travel%2C%20energy%20use%2C%20and%20CO2%20emissions%E2%80%9D%20(Special%20Report%20298%2C%20The%20National%20Academies%20Press%2C%202009).&f=false" target="_blank">viable</a>. As the authors observe, a low-carbon community will take more than low-carbon homes. They suggest that higher densities will be needed alongside mixed-use development to reach that point. This is an important consideration, there won't be much point to lowering our emissions from housing if we end up driving more. </p><p>Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this study is the need for a combined effort stretching across various sectors and levels of government to deal with climate-changing greenhouse gases. Focusing purely on the demand or production size of energy won't be enough to reach our goals. A rethinking of how we build houses and communities in the United States might be necessary.</p><p>The lifestyle that many Americans are used to creates a lot of carbon as a waste product. Getting our country to environmental sustainability is going to take more than just switching over to renewable energy and clean-burning fuels. As this study shows, the very way we've built our housing and cities needs to be reconsidered if we want to reach our climate goals.</p>
Researchers create a device to test a 50-year-old physics theory from the famed Roger Penrose.
- Scientists prove a 50-year-old physics theory by Roger Penrose.
- The theory explains how energy could be harvested from black holes by advanced aliens.
- Researchers from the University of Glasgow twisted sound waves to show that the effect Penrose described is real.
Check out how the researchers explain their work<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18cab22ba8605e6eaba8784df05eeb1d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ES2VxhRAkUM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The set-up of the experiment.
Credit: University of Glasgow
By leveraging the difference between lit and shadowed areas, a new energy source perfect for wearables is invented.
- Mobile devices used both indoors and out may benefit from a new energy collection system that thrives on mixed and changing lighting conditions.
- Inexpensive new collection cells are said to be twice as efficient as commercial solar cells.
- The system's "shadow effect" would also maker it useful as a sensor for tracking traffic.
For all of its promise, solar energy depends on the capture of light, and the more the better. For residents of sunny climes, that's great, with rooftop collection panels, and solar farms built by utilities in wide open, sunny spaces that can provide power to the rest of us. Now, though, a team of scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has announced success at deriving energy from…shadows.
We've got plenty of them everywhere. "Shadows are omnipresent, and we often take them for granted," says research team leader Tan Swee Ching, who notes how shadows are usually anathema for energy collection. "In conventional photovoltaic or optoelectronic applications where a steady source of light is used to power devices, the presence of shadows is undesirable, since it degrades the performance of devices." His team has come up with something quite different, and Tan claims of their shadow-effect energy generator (SEG) that, "This novel concept of harvesting energy in the presence of shadows is unprecedented."
The research is published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.
How it works
Image source: Royal Society of Chemistry/NUS
The energy produced by the SEG is generated from the differential between shadowed and lit areas. "In this work," says Tan. "We capitalized on the illumination contrast caused by shadows as an indirect source of power. The contrast in illumination induces a voltage difference between the shadow and illuminated sections, resulting in an electric current."
SEG cells are less expensive to produce than solar cells. Each SEG cell is a thin film of gold on a silicon wafer, and an entire system is a set of four of these cells arrayed on a flexible, transparent plastic film. Experiments suggest the system, in use, is twice as efficient as commercial solar cells.
An SEG cell's shadow effect works best when it is half in light and half in shadow, "as this gives enough area for charge generation and collection respectively," says co-team leader Andrew Wee. When the SEG is entirely in shadow or in light, it doesn't produce a charge.
Gold in them that shadows
To be sure, the amount of energy that NUS researchers have thus far extracted is small, but it's enough to power a digital watch. The researchers envision the SEG system harvesting ambient light to power smart phones and AR glasses that are used both outdoors and indoors. While such devices can run on solar batteries, solar is only replenished outdoors, and the SEG could "scavenge energy from both illumination and shadows associated with low light intensities to maximize the efficiency of energy harvesting," says Tan. It seems clear that we're on the cusp of the era of wearables — AR visionwear, smart fabrics, smart watches, and so on — and so Tan considers the arrival of the SEG "exciting and timely."
The researchers also note an additional application for which the SEG seems a natural: It can function as a self-powered sensor for monitoring moving objects. The shadow caused by a passing object would trigger the SEG sensor, which can then record the event.
Next up for the team is investigating constructing cells using other, less costly materials than gold to make them even less expensive to produce.