Sunday, 18 December 2016

whether square-cut or pear-shaped

Geochemists at the University of Bristol, concerned with the mounting problem of what to do with spent radioactive material, have found a novel way of sequestering small bits of it safely to create gemstone batteries that could last for potentially thousands of years, corresponding to the half-life of the nuclear waste used to generate the modest but enduring charge. The waste is vapourised and inserted into the stone, which as the hardest substance in nature, are not prone to degradation or leeching out any radioactivity. There are hurdles to overcome, to be sure—not the least being the casing to house a gram of the nuclear cell is prohibitively expensive (but maybe cubic zirconia would be just as sturdy a substitute) and the output isn’t nearly as robust as most modern applications demand, but one day perhaps our cybernetics (pace-makers, auxiliary memory enhancers, bionic livers) or our robotic domestics might be powered by a little spark of radiation trapped inside a diamond.