Nuclear fission is the highest energy dense and carbon-free source of energy available in the world. Atomic fuel like plutonium 238 has specific energy density 630 million watt-hour per kilogram while the highest energy density chemical is hydrogen has energy density 40000 watt-hour per kilogram and lithium ion battery has 300 watt-hour per kilogram only.
But nuclear fission has a great problem of generation of tons of radioactive waste that takes hundreds of thousands years to decay and costs billions of dollars for safe disposal.
Scientists are trying to turn this radioactive spontaneous decay reaction into a usable energy source like a nuclear waste battery. Nuclear battery technology is not new but has been since 1913. Henry Moseley first demonstrated the current generation from charged particle radiation in 1913. Primarily these nuclear batteries are used for spacecraft, radio receivers and hearing aids. Radio Voltaic conversion are three types: Alpha Voltaic conversion (consists of two photons and two neutrons), Beta voltaic conversion (consists of high electron or positron) and Gamma Voltaic conversion (consists of shortest wavelength electromagnetic waves).
Considering the price, low life span, long charging time and explosion risk of lithium ion batteries, recently researchers gave attention to developing high efficiency atomic batteries to use in transportation and heavy duty applications. In 2016 a team of researchers physicists and chemists worked together in University of Bristol and developed a Betavoltaic device named as radioactive diamond batteries.
Presently NDB Ins. USA (Nuclear Diamond Battery/ Nano Diamond Battery) in San Fransisco uses artificial blue diamond as semiconductor and Schottky diodes being used in atomic batteries for high power long life and green energy that can last for 28000 years without recharging. They also named it “High power diamond based alpha beta & neutron voltaic battery”. As they estimated that it can be used in cars that could last 100 years long without recharge.
In this process artificial radioactive polycrystalline diamond is made by chemical vapor deposition of radioactive methane containing the radioactive isotope carbon 14 harvested in radiated reactor graphite blocks. These diamonds can act as a radioactive source as well as semiconductors also. When these diamonds are exposed in thin layers of radioactive particles a current is produced and the radioactive particles continue to refuel it over & over again for hundreds of years.
Recently Tesla’s Elon Mask also declared that Atomic Battery is his next big plan.
But these batteries produce a small amount of energy, Since nuclear batteries have very low power density and conversion can reach higher efficiency up to 6-8%. So for application in the automobile industry it may not be possible but we have to wait & see what happens in future. May some sort of technology be invented to use atomic EV in future.