Today in cleverly designed solutions to old problems: University of Bristol engineers have devised a "hundred-year battery" that could report the state of buried nuclear waste repositories wirelessly to the surface 100 years after it--and the sensors connected to it--is buried, sealed, and cemented into the ground.
The problem here, of course, is that buried nuclear waste has to be completely sealed, meaning there can't be any ductwork allowing wires to run from the surface to the inside of the containment facility. If there were water might get in or radioactivity might get out, negating the whole point of burying the waste in the first place.
But how to power sensors underground 100 years after they are buried? Conventional chemical batteries would long since have lost their charges. This answer entails a handful of magnets and a copper coil--the basis of a simple generator--and a 100-year timer.
The gist: two powerful neodymium magnets are set opposite each other about 15 centimeters apart, connected by a carbon fiber rod. A third doughnut-shaped magnet is wrapped around the rod, free to move along it in either direction. The end magnets would be polarized such that both repel this third magnet. The whole array is surrounded by a copper coil.
To set the battery, one would simply trap the doughnut-shaped magnet against one of the larger end magnets with a latch set to a 100-year timer; a century on, the timer releases the doughnut-shaped magnet, which is thrust along the rod to the other end where it is repelled by that magnet and pushed back toward the first magnet, and so on. Eventually the magnet comes to rest in the middle of the carbon fiber rod between the two repelling forces, but by then it has made several passes along the length of the copper coil, creating enough juice to charge the various sensors and transmitters necessary to get temperature and radioactivity data to the surface.
Of course, that raises the obvious problem of creating a 100-year timer to release the magnet. Researchers think such a latch could be triggered externally, perhaps by a radio signal. Because a 100-year mechanical clock would take a really, really long time to wind.
This is an interesting article.
How are these sensors transmitting information back to the surface? Via electromagnetic waves I'm guessing...
If so, why couldn't they just use the "wireless electricity" technology Tesla invented like 100 years ago to power the timer/sensors/whatever.
Since it's buried underground anyway, there wouldn't be a risk of the electrical broadcast resonating with someone's nose ring and electrocuting them--it would only resonate with the receivers inside the sealed waste chamber.
The information is probably being sent via radio waves in a frequency that can penetrate through to the surface.
The "wireless electricity" technology doesn't penetrate through solid objects very well.
Interesting technology but why exactly do we need an update on the "state" of the waste? It will be "hot" for thousands of years. Aren't the sensors on the outside of the "sealed" burial site the important ones. We really want to know whether or not it is leaking out.
Why not use the radioactive waste to heat a small generator? Then you could have several hundred years of power and real-time reports.
Seems like overkill to me. Radiation is not all that bad. There is plenty of it rocking around all the time. The real problem is concentration. Spread the stuff out enough, and it is harmless. At one point is was suggest that it be put into consumer goods. The problem, however, was not the consumer goods, it was that the waste was recollected at the dump (and the point was to spread it out).
If you insist on keeping it together, then find a deep salt mine, line it with concrete, fill it with containers, fill that area with sand, and leave it a 1/2 mile deep. End of problem.
Of course it would be much better to burn this radio-active "waste" in a Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor and sell the electricity at a profit. See energyfromthorium.com
Wow, where to find a source of electricity from a vault emitting electro-magnetic energy for 10,000 years. Hmmm... We are too clever for our own good. The radioactive material is a fine source of energy. Set things up right and you could contrust a simple system to periodically transmit information for hundreds if not thousands of years. Set up your monitors on the surface, and you are done.
seems like 100 years is limiting. what if they want a reading when ever they want? 5 years. every 25. etc. The radio trigger sounds like a better idea, but then it wouldn't be a 100 year trigger. it would be a when ever we want trigger which makes much more sense, and negative the entire point of this article. I think the tech that BV is talking about is extremely close range and would not do well at all through concrete. but maybe they could build a transmitter in the concrete, or on the outside layer so it might still work.
AM radio waves travel through ground a little better than FM don't they? Its been a REALLY long time since my electromagnets class in college. A curious problem indeed. but its seems to only be the tip of the ice berg. I thought we planned on burying nuke waste for 10,000 years or more. we are going to want to know whats going on down there more than just ONCE in that 10,000 year time frame.