Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Nuclear sandwich battery

Obtain electrical energy from nuclear waste
  [vote for,

A very real present day problem is of what to do with nuclear waste in all its forms. Most of it is void of what is considered by many as "usable" energy. However, it still produces enough high energy radiation and particles to be considered very hazardous. We know that electricity can readily be obtained from radiation through photovoltaics, so I therefore propose that we store our nuclear waste in great stacks of alternating layers of waste and photovoltaic cell sheets. Considering the level of radiation given off from nuclear waste, it should produce more power per given area than a solar cell in the sunniest regions. This idea would kill two birds with one stone.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

spider silk http://www.sciencen...g/sn_edpik/ps_5.htm
cannot say I would advise a silk bullet proof vest myself [po, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Waste Disposal Basics http://www.geocitie...ulatory%20Oversight
[thumbwax, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

The Nuclear Waste Shortage Crisis. http://www.ans.neep...r95/waste_myth.html
[Amos Kito, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository http://en.wikipedia...ar_waste_repository
[Spacecoyote, Sep 23 2009]


       Hold the onions, please
thumbwax, Dec 28 2002

       //great stacks of alternating layers//   

       Sounds more like lasagne than a sandwich....
Marassa, Dec 28 2002

       And what exactly are your objections, other than ignorant, vague insults against something you apparently don't understand or appreciate? If you wanna trash my idea, please do so with reasons.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       There needn't be a link to a photovoltaics page, as the laws which state that EM waves can be readily converted to electricity are very old and well known in the physics community. The way it works is precisely like this: You have big sheets of photovoltaic cells, which are basically solar cells. In between these sheets are layers of hazardous nuclear waste, which is still highly radioactive. The radiation(I'm using radiation in the generic sense, but I'm referring mainly to particles) is electrically charged, either positive or negative, and the cells would capture this and harness the power for consumer use. The essence of this idea is not new, but only the application of using nuclear waste. The nuclear battery idea has been around since the 60's or earlier. If anyone still doesn't believe that you can get electricity from radiation, stick a fork or wad of aluminum foil in the microwave and see what happens. After you get a new microwave, tell me how it went. Here's a link to help support my theory:   

Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       Your understanding evidently truly is feeble. Photons don't just apply to light, but are the universal particle present in all EM waves. All that makes light waves different from gamma or UV radiation is the frequency. Gamma, UV, and X rays are higher in frequency, and in energy, but their makeup is the same as light. You have an electron, and a positron, which intersect at 90 degree angles every so often. The point at which they intersect is what we call a photon. The more often they intersect, the higher the frequency and energy. The way photovoltaics work, is that they split the EM energy into usable separate charges of positive and negative.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       I proposed my initial idea before having ever heard of Paul Brown. Only after some people refused to accept what I put forth did I do a very short search at google and discover that the idea basically is baked anyway. Before finding outside information, I just thought it was common sense that decaying radioactive material wastes a lot of energy that we aren't using right now, and that a simple way to use it would be by capturing the particles and waves through the photovoltaic effect, first discovered around the turn of the century. That's just the basic idea that radiation can be converted to electricity. Solar cells are only a small portion of what can be done with photovoltaics. As for the cost, it's just common sense. The initial investment is high, but so is the cost of storing nuclear waste anyway - there's no cheap way out. However, the high amounts(no I don't have exact figures, check out the website)of electricity produced would certainly overtake the initial cost, since upkeep is at a minimum. After all, these stacks would just be sitting there, and the photovoltaics would be absorbing the radiation. You could generate electricity for generations this way.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       No, because you've effectively converted the radiation energy into another form - electricity. That's the whole point, is absorbing energy, and converting it. When you turn radiation energy into electricity, the radiation is no longer there. Energy is never lost or created, but it merely changes forms.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       IVnick8or: No. There's a difference between radiation and radioactive material.   

       This idea relies on the construction of an energy collection device that is not destroyed by the high energy particles that it collects.   

       Imagine trying to collect the energy of bullets from a firing range. It would be an interesting challenge to build a device that would work and not get shot to pieces.   

       I imagine that if someone creates this device for alpha, beta and gamma radiation then this application of the device, I imagine, would naturally follow.
st3f, Dec 28 2002

       Finally, someone who thinks and understands a little bit about what I'm saying, rather than jumping on the fishbone bandwagon. You're exactly right, the sheets would have to be able to withstand the radiation. However, I'll offer another example to counter yours. Do you know that if you hang a sheet of silk from a clothesline and then shoot it, that the bullet will not penetrate it? Why is that? Because the energy is absorbed. I'm willing to bet that if the material is converting, rather than completely stopping the energy, that it would be able to hold together for a long time.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       ordinary silk or spider silk? linky.
po, Dec 28 2002

       It's an old trick, that if you have a sheet of ordinary silk that's the right size, since the silk is so light it will give when the bullet hits it enough so that it isn't penetrated. yet, if you stretch the same sheet of silk tightly, the bullet will easily penetrate. I can't find a website, but it's an old trick that tinkerers like to do.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       Come on guys, do you really think this idea deserves a fish? I've seen a lot worse ideas get croissants. Doesn't anyone like it?
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       Government restrictions on Nuclear Waste handling make this a pipe dream. See link.
I didn't fishbone the idea, but I'd venture a guess - it's likely the pre-existing regulatory aspect that garnered the measly two fishbones from others. There are very few 'bakers around this time of year, so you'll *have* to forgive the lack of commentary/+- votes from a broader range of halfbakers. The "onions" comment stemmed from several factors: "Sandwich"; potential for new cooking surface from the described invention with a bit of levity; not wanting to point out regulatory problems from the get-go on a concise, well-written, well-intentioned idea, which I hope to see more of from the author.
thumbwax, Dec 28 2002

       so thumbwax (he who knows best - trust me!) has welcomed you into the fold in his own unique way. I was going to say hi! too and then my connection went phoof.   

       say "bye bye" to this idea and work on the next one! good luck and welcome.
po, Dec 28 2002

       usually it's because of the clashing colors, [waugs].
bristolz, Dec 28 2002

       It's ok guys. However, I will tell you that my uncle has worked for years in the field of nuclear waste management for an Oak Ridge based company. A few years ago he asked me what to do about the problem of waste corroding metal drums and escaping. I said, "Make the drums out of concrete." I won't swear that they did it because of me, but not long afterwards, they started doing just that. It's good to be welcomed here at the bakery. I've been watching things here for quite a while. I could post many, many ideas, but I don't give out my best ideas anymore, because they've been ripped off before from me, I believe. Well, thanks again everyone, God bless.
Darknight, Dec 28 2002

       [Darknight], try a Google search for "Wigner Energy". The problem with photovoltaics is that they depend on maintaining a stable boundary between the P and N layers of the wafer. If you bombard a silcon lattice with alpha particles, you tend to get structural dislocation, and problems with diffusion of the dopants; eventually the P-N junction breaks down. Photovoltaics don't have the right characteristics to absorb gamma radiation (ultra-hard X rays) and even if they did, the resulting ionisation in the lattice would do even more damage; ditto, beta particles. As for the neutrons .... enough said.   

       Semiconductors exposed to high radiation fluxes tend to go bye-byes rather quickly. Photovoltaics work by having the right band gaps set up so that visible light photons can excite electrons across the junction without doing irreversible structural damage. Sadly, this makes this idea impractical in the current state of semiconductor technology, otherwise it would be used already. It has been proposed before, back in the 1930's. See also some interesting work on photoelectricity and quantum effects dating from the very early 20th century by a Nobel Prize winner by the name of Albert Einstein.
8th of 7, Dec 29 2002

       You might have trouble finding enough to make a sandwich, see [link]. If you do, just cut them into triangles, like little hors d'oeuvres.
Amos Kito, Dec 29 2002

       The current crop of photovoltaic cells typically produce most of their energy from the visible blue/green spectrum and have lousy efficiencies at higher and lower wavelengths.
RayfordSteele, Dec 30 2002

       If current photovoltaic cells wouldn't work(which I didn't really think ordinary solar cells would handle it anyway)build better ones. I'm sure silicon isn't the only thing they can be made from. There must be a way, if people are willing.
Darknight, Dec 30 2002

       Suppose it's a woikable idea.
Might the financial cost be prohibitive? Aside from the manufacturer, who would make an actual profit by producing energy in this fashion?
thumbwax, Dec 30 2002

       Theoretically, the same people charged with disposing of it anyway, who take(or are supposed to take)great pains, and lots of money to ensure its safe storage. If they could find a way to extract some capital from the stuff, I'm sure they'd be happy to.
Darknight, Jan 01 2003

       It is true that current materials (CdS/CdTe, Si, CdSZ etc ) used in photovoltaics can't withstand nuclear radioactivity. However new materials are being researched and results are promising. All you need its a P-N juntion made of a material that can stand radiation and that exibits photovoltaic efects for the desired energy, to create a battery that will last for decades if not centuries and that will produce hundreds of times the energy that is currently produced by solar cells. Cornell university is working on nano batteries powerd by a Nickel 65 isotope to create bateries for MEMS (microelectromechanical systems). They are working in the nanoscale..but it can be extrapolated into MACRo for large quantities of energy..
aarrodri, Feb 28 2003

       I don't know THAT much about radiation Electro-magnetic fields and such but i understand that although it seems we don't have or have common access to technology to facilitate this idea.. similar enough techonology DOES exist that concidering how far we have come in the last 150 years I think it's a possibility for the near future and the conceptual gains vs. risks propose an excellent posibility for future energy generation. Thumbs up from me. I'd invest in it if i had money =0)   

       Good speed to your modems, InKogNeetO!
InKogNeetO, Apr 26 2004

       In what material state does one normally find nuclear waste? Solid? Liquid? Tapioca pudding? Couldn't it all just be balled up and shot into space to create another sun? Then you wouldn't have to worry so much about the photovoltaic material degrading.
justaguy, Apr 26 2004

       And what if we sandwich the cells between custard layers?. A custard sandwich is a treat. Sometimes simple, good ideas are rejected because they are too good to be true. Croissant.
finflazo, Apr 28 2004

       What about all the radioactive particles that aren't photons? If you bombard these cells with protons and neutrons for a year or so, they're going to transmute to heavier elements and they'll be radioactive to boot. They'll also have different chemical properties so guess what, they won't be photovoltaic anymore.
Madcat, Apr 28 2004

       Madcat : Of course every idea needs ironing out, they are only half baked. But recovering energy from nuclear waste is sound. Perhaps through heat exchangers, or something. What about replacing neon signs with glow in the dark radiactives? . That'll save energy, too. Or annointing your shoes with radiactive cream so you can see were your'e stepping. Only a question of finding the proper technology and application.
finflazo, May 05 2004

       There are already batteries which use radioactivity to generate energy. I don't know how they work (but I doubt it is like this). Whether nuclear waste would be a good source for these I don't know either, but in any case I suspect it would be expensive for what you'd get out.
Loris, May 05 2004

       Would it be possible to make a mixture of radioactive waste material, phosphorous, and silicon, to form a type of "glowing glass"?   

       This glass could be used as a source of light for a shielded PV cell.   

       Since the light could be concentrated, less PV cells would be required for the same output, and the phosphorus mixture could be tuned to the point in the light spectrum to which the PV cells are most sensitive.   

TIB, May 06 2004

       I've been throwing around an idea for something like this for years, and it wasn't until a year ago that I read something that made me re-think a lot of my theories.   


       I thought this was nifty, but what really piqued my interest was the fact that copper would absorb beta radiation particles, creating a negative charge in relation to the emitter source. They were using Nickel-63 as a source, but I figured that there had to be something with a little more "oomph".   

       Imagine a thin sheet made of a beta-emitter, and a thin sheet of copper, with a thin, wide carbon mesh in between as an insulator. put another carbon mesh on top of this "sandwich" and roll it up. It would look like a carbon-mesh swiss roll, but it would be basically a battery that would be as long-lasting and powervul as the half-life and energy-level of your beta-emittter.   

       Nickel-63 has a half-life of 100 years, but it has a maximum energy level of only 0.067 Mev. That's not going to do at all. Doing some digging, I found that the two best beta-emitter sources would be either Strontium-90 with a half-life of 29 years and an energy level of 0.546 Mev, or Technetium-99 with a half-life of 212, 000 years and an energy level of 0.292 Mev.   

       Of course, studying uses of these sources led me to stumble onto Paul Brown's work, so I knew someone else had a similar notion. He used Strontium-90 which produced MORE than enough energy, but its half-life would be within most anyone's lifetime.   

       Using Technetium-99, a battery could be made, that if as efficient as Paul Brown's battery, would produce perhaps 2/3 the power, but would practically never run out. Direct conversion of beta radiation to electricity is possible, as proven my the Cornell students, so why not harness it?   

       Cliff notes: instead of a conventional sandwich, try a "wrap", and focus on beta particles.
hypernoodle, May 21 2004

       Can someone answer this Question: Can Strontium-90 and Technetium-99 both be derived from nuclear waste?
Jsebesta, Sep 21 2009

       //Can Strontium-90 and Technetium-99 both be derived from nuclear waste?//
I don't know, but Chernobyl managed to produce quite a lot of Strontium 90, IIRC.
coprocephalous, Sep 21 2009

       [Darknight] Have you seen smashed cellphones lying in the gutter? Would you give the public this sandwich?
wjt, Sep 22 2009

       I like it --- so be warned, it is probably just about insane. As I understand it Jim proposed something similar but using thermo couplings rather than photovoltaics...   

       With regards to radiation damage caused to the voltaic panels --- you need transparent thermocouples. So to be clear, the sandwich would have a "transparent" thermocouple layer to protect the voltaic layers.   

       Also you might like to "repack" the cake every once in a while...
madness, Sep 22 2009

       This is a letter that I received from our battery research department. Can anyone address the concerns: The nuclear battery concept has been around for some time. There is generally an immediate concern regarding potential leakage of radioactive material and the incumbent need for 100% hermetic sealing. This concern is heightened in battery applications, and especially for mobile and automotive uses, due to the risk of enclosure damage in the event of an accident. I recall there may also have been technical feasibility issues related to potential discharge rate limitations and performance degradation over time. This could reduce the potential number of applications and would effectively rule out automotive. If any of you are aware that the issues above, and other potential technical hurdles, have been resolved, I would be interested to learn more. Please feel free to forward any relevant data.
Jsebesta, Sep 22 2009

       Jim was aware of this and decided not to divert avert or avoid overtly
madness, Sep 22 2009

       Hmm...Instead of just burying nuclear waste underground in Nevada [link], it could be made into a "buried battery" for power generation.
Spacecoyote, Sep 23 2009


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