Phil McKenna at NewScientist.com news service describes a nanotechnology advance that turns radiation directly into electricity, leading us to wonder if it thus simultaneously provides a use for nuclear waste. This nanotech application appears to be in the early stages of development, so aside from questions of just how efficient and how expensive it would be, one wonders how resistant this nanomaterial would be to radiation damage. From “Nanomaterial turns radiation directly into electricity“:

…US researchers say they have developed highly efficient materials that can convert the radiation, not heat, from nuclear materials and reactions into electricity.

Liviu Popa-Simil, former Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear engineer and founder of private research and development company LAVM and Claudiu Muntele, of Alabama A&M University, US, says transforming the energy of radioactive particles into electricity is more effective.

The materials they are testing would extract up to 20 times more power from radioactive decay than thermoelectric materials, they calculate.

Tests of layered tiles of carbon nanotubes packed with gold and surrounded by lithium hydride are under way. Radioactive particles that slam into the gold push out a shower of high-energy electrons. They pass through carbon nanotubes and pass into the lithium hydride from where they move into electrodes, allowing current to flow.

—Jim