Arkenlight and Axorus have teamed up to prototype the first artificial neuron powered by a diamond betavoltaic battery made from nuclear waste. In brief, this company was formed by researchers at the University of Bristol who developed a means for taking bits of radioactive waste from nuclear power stations – specifically, carbon-14 and tritium from reactor parts that have been exposed to fuel rod radiation – and converting them into diamonds that can harvest the high-energy electrons, or beta particles, that it emits, and turn them into usable electricity. It’s important to note that we’re talking about tiny amounts of power here, and that other companies promising to power consumer devices and electric cars with nuclear diamond batteries are yet to demonstrate how they’ll do so without having batteries bigger and heavier than the devices themselves.
Lately, Arkenlight has been working with French company Axorus, to explore the possibility of using betavoltaic microbatteries to power the artificial neurons Axorus has been developing.
The company is currently developing an artificial retina, which pairs a number of artificial neurons with photodiodes, creating a matrix of “Pixels” that can read incoming light and send an electrical signal to the brain through the optic nerve.
These artificial retinas will be powered by the ambient light itself, but Axorus is looking for solutions to power them at night, and the company has a range of other applications in mind for its artificial neurons in the brain, the endocrine system, the gut and the urinary system where they can potentially treat all kinds of disorders – but no light will be available to power them.
A tiny, safe betavoltaic battery that lasts for decades could be perfect for these devices, so Axorus and Arkenlight have partnered up to build a proof of concept: the first artificial neuron powered by a tritium radiovoltaic micro-power generator.