The Nano-Diamond Battery (NDB) — Is It Too Good To Be True?
We have so many electronic devices that run on a battery. It requires recharging at least once a day when in constant use. What if a battery that doesn’t require charging were invented? That would sound too good to be true, but it might be possible. That is the claim made by NDB about a new battery technology that utilizes nuclear waste material to generate electrons for thousands of years.
The company has not yet invented the product, in fact the battery they describe does not yet exist in 2020. They are going to develop it using their own proof-of-concept after raising the funds. Their goal is to build a universal life-long self-charging green battery, for use with electric cars and other electronic devices. This could be disruptive, but it is best to look further into how such a battery is even possible or not possible at all.
According to a report, the proof-of-concept design was evaluated by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which reported a 40% charge improvement in efficiency over diamond. The diamond is made from recycled carbon graphite from nuclear waste. The carbon is finished into a diamond that has become radioactive from nuclear energy production. This eventually, according to theory, creates a miniature power generator. It was not indicated how Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory tested the proof-of-concept, so it would be nice to see the official publication to corroborate the report.
The question here is how does a tiny battery become self-charging?
The main attraction to this battery is that it can last up to 28,000 years, no charging required. This is because of the material the battery is made from, Carbon-14 nuclear waste. It is a hazardous material to begin with, so it requires a careful process to create the Carbon-14 diamond for safe use. Once built, the battery would not emit any carbon emissions which makes it a source of green energy.
The battery design is called DNV (Diamond Nuclear Voltaic). It uses a multi-layer stack arrangement to maximize efficiency for high energy output. While the diamond itself stores the charge, it uses a supercapacitor for high power output. This is the device that distributes the electricity to power a load connected to the circuit. To contain the nuclear radiation from the diamond, it is encased in another diamond layer made from non-radioactive, lab-created Carbon-12.
The charge is from electrons that radiate from the nuclear material. As the carbon in the material decays, it emits electrons. By encasing it for safety, the material must be controlled to emit a charge. It must be fabricated with your usual anode and cathode to conduct electricity when a voltage is applied. It also uses a semiconductor for charge collection emitting from the diamond. The idea here is that the diamond will generate continuous electrons until it is expended. According to theory, that can take thousands of years to expend so it provides a source of non-rechargeable energy for consumers.
In Real Life
Most of the claims have no hard evidence or proof yet, other than what NDB has reported. The NewAtlas website which published an article about the battery had to issue an August 27, 2020 update to report that these are still claims and not supported by scientific facts at the moment. NewAtlas then attempts an explanation of what the NDB might be capable of, but that is another story.
No battery is 100% efficient due to the law of conservation of energy. You cannot create power from nothing, it must exist in one form or another. Most of the energy is not converted to work, since there is a byproduct of waste. That is usually in the form of heat when it comes to batteries. NDB doesn’t fully explain what happens to the heat it generates during energy conversion other than to describe thermal vents to dissipate heat.
Powering electric cars requires plenty of energy, and that is something that NDB has yet to demonstrate. Perhaps their batteries can be stacked together to get to that level of energy density when it comes to powering heavy workloads. Once again the challenge there is efficiency and thermal management. How the heat is dissipated and how the system is cooled will determine overall performance. That data is also lacking from NDB at the moment (as of this posting). There is not much data to analyze about the claims.
The idea of self-charging batteries should not be dismissed, but take it with a grain of salt. There needs to be more data and an actual working prototype to legitimize a proof-of-concept. Tiny micro-devices already exist today that can run perpetually with little voltage to operate, so this battery might make the case for that. Yet they claim to be able to do much more than this. On their website they talk about aerospace, automobile, medical, consumer, military and industrial applications. That is a broad range of applications, it makes it sound like a solution worthy of investment.
Battery technology is continuously evolving and the trend is for higher energy density and higher efficiency to power devices. The challenge is to balance the amount of energy a battery can store without overheating or depleting too quickly. Most battery applications are used in consumer electronic gadgets like smartphones, but now there is a demand in the automobile sector for building electric cars. A battery that never needs charging will truly be disruptive if NDB can make one. That will then lead to the next challenge which is to manufacture devices that can support the new battery. Current systems will probably not be able to support it.
It could all be hype to get funding. That is why it is best to evaluate the phases of this project to see how it is doing. When the data is available and the prototype is built, we can pass further judgements. I won’t say whether this is going to work or not, but this reminds me of SpaceX. What made the project believable was the saying “to see is to believe”. When we saw the Falcon X landing vertically, it made us believe it can work for real world use. We often want visuals when it comes to proof and until we see something that works, the concept will remain just that … still a concept.