July 6, 2022

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Artificial neurons run on batteries made from radioactive waste.  Could you?  You can, scientists have proven it

Artificial neurons run on batteries made from radioactive waste. Could you? You can, scientists have proven it

While the British company Arkenlight is engaged in the production of unique diamond batteries from nuclear waste (tritium batteries), the French company Axorus is working on the development of its own artificial neurons. The result of the collaboration between the two companies can be only one – equally innovative artificial neurons powered by innovative batteries. This is the duo that was just introduced, and it boasts a prototype of a medical implant that could work for decades.

Artificial neurons powered by tritium batteries. Currently, it’s just a proof of concept, but it’s probably a matter of time

Scientists from the University of Bristol are responsible for the success of Arkenlight. They developed a method for obtaining radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, more precisely from fuel rods that had been exposed to radiation and turned into diamond. The key is how they work, because in practice these elements can accumulate high-energy electrons or beta particles and convert them into useful electrical energy. This process can take decades, maybe even thousands of years, and despite its roots, it is (according to scientists) very safe for use even inside the human body.

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However, for any battery to make sense, it has to power something, and so an artificial neuron was created as part of Arkenlight’s collaboration with Axorus. Not just anything, but it’s very advanced, because, according to the company, “it’s a CMOS system that’s up to 1,000 times more energy efficient and up to 10 times smaller than biological neurons.” The very high sensitivity of these neurons makes them ideal for medical implants and in the future they can reach the nervous system of patients and perform various functions there, based on their ability to communicate with biological neurons.

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The current prototype scales quite a bit, but the target size for the Arkenlight’s tritium battery is a 4 x 4 mm square with a thickness of less than 50 microns. While the final performance and actual life expectancy of tritium batteries are yet to be determined, the company expects these batteries to generate microwatts of power for decades to come and hopes to bring something to the market by 2024.

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