Technology development usually crawls, sometimes jogs along smoothly, and occasionally leaps forward with astounding results. If technologists succeed in bringing the theory of nanodiamond battery (NDB) technology to market, they will vault two significant challenges: nuclear waste containment and the need for battery power sufficient to implement the wildest dreams of Internet of Things (IoT) product designers.
If the fittingly-named Pleasanton, California-based startup NDB succeeds in hitting three milestones, traditional batteries will be relegated to science museums as a short-lived early effort. NDB, an acronym for Nano Diamond Battery, plans to commercialize recycled nuclear waste encased in a diamond coating to produce self-powered batteries that last up to 28,000 years. The milestone steps along the road to product launch include proof of concept to show that nanodiamond batteries work, scaling to increase output into a commercially useful specification, and opening a factory capable of mass production. Following recently successful proof of concept tests at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, NDB announced its first beta customers. The two as-yet-unnamed customers are a leader in nuclear fuel cycle products and a global aerospace, defense, and security company.
NDB’s solution entails diamond nuclear voltaic (DNV) stacks, rapid conversion from radiation to electricity, and thin-film structures. DNV stacks combine semiconductor metals and ceramics to create positive-negative contact surfaces between decaying nuclear radioisotopes. Scientists can control the energy conversion rate and dispersion with strategic DNV stack placement. NDB engineers employ thin-film design with single-crystalline diamond in the DNV stack, making it possible to create marketable batteries in all shapes and sizes.
In 1953, I watched the original television broadcast of Jungle Devil, episode 14 from season 2 of “The Adventures of Superman.” In the episode, the Man of Steel used his bare hands to convert a lump of coal into a diamond to replace an idol’s missing jeweled eye. The show and the concept stuck made a strong impression on this then seven-year-old. If NDB succeeds, concerns about wearable, implant, car, and household power battery run times and charging modes could disappear, and nuclear waste could be the useful end product of nuclear power plants, not a terrifying waste.