Nuclear Waste Inside Your Brain? It’s Possible

Nuclear waste-powered electronic brain interfaces might sound like something straight out of science fiction, but a planned prototype may see the idea take shape in the real world.

Using recycled nuclear waste as a power source for batteries is the whole focus of British company Arkenlight.

Arkenlight aims to use recycled nuclear fuels such as tritium and carbon-14 that can be safely converted into useful products. Radioactive nuclear waste is cited as one of the key setbacks of nuclear power more generally since it’s not easy to dispose of.

A stock illustration depicts electrical activity of neuron cells. Scientists are developing electrical interfaces that may help neurons communicate.
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The idea is that a radioactive nuclear source giving off radiation in the form of high-energy electrons can be stored and the electrons captured to generate power. Even better, if you can convert the radioactive source into diamond form, you can generate and collect the power at the same time.

One of the key characteristics of a battery that works in this way is that it will not run out of power for a long time—though power will slowly decline over a period of years as the radioactive source continuously decays.

Now, Arkenlight has partnered with French company Axorus, according to science and tech news outlet New Atlas. Axorus aims to develop neuro-electronic interfaces including an artificial retina for patients suffering from sight loss.

With their partnership, the companies hope they will be able to merge their technologies together, with Axorus’ medical implants being powered by Arkenlight’s radioactive battery technology.

The battery should be safe since the radiation in question is of a type that will not be able to penetrate far into human tissue.

The companies have produced an early-stage proof of concept in which an Arkenlight battery does power an artificial neuron, but the design is far, far from ready yet. For one thing, the battery is currently housed in a chunky black box that is far too large to safely fit inside someone’s head at the moment. That’s not to mention the mass of wires connecting the two together.

But Arkenlight hopes it can get that particular tritium battery down to 4×4 mm, and then they’d be well on the way.

“We are still several years away from having a commercially available product, though we are working with early customers like Axorus in aligning our effort with their needs,” Arkenlight CEO Morgan Boardman told New Atlas.

It’s not the only development in the world of neuron medicine. Earlier this month scientists reported in a study that they had managed to re-activate certain cells in human eyes despite the fact that the donors had died hours prior. It’s hoped that ongoing research in the field could lead to treatments to improve vision in patients with eyesight problems.


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