Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
scientists have developed a semiconductor device that may lead to improved, long-life batteries. Employing some of the same techniques that are used to produce microchips, they have created a porous-silicon diode that converts low levels of radiation into electricity and can last several decades.
A team of researchers from the University of Rochester, usa, the University of Toronto, Canada, the Rochester Institute of Technology and BetaBatt, Inc. of Houston, usa, describe their new diode in the May 13 issue of Advanced Materials (Vol 17, No 10).
While producing as little as one-thousandth of the power of conventional chemical batteries, the new batteries, to be called BetaBattery, will be more efficient and potentially less expensive than others with similar design. If the new diode proves successful when incorporated into a finished battery, it could help power such hard-to-service, long-life systems as climate monitoring equipment and satellites. Such batteries will be robust -- tolerant to shock and functional from minus 100 c to 150 c -- and may never have to be changed for the lifetime of the device.
The battery's long life is tied to the enduring nature of its fuel, tritium, a hydrogen isotope that releases electrons in a process called beta decay. The diode generates electricity by absorbing the electrons, just as a solar cell generates electricity from light.
It will not be the first battery to harness a radioactive source, or even the first to use tritium, but the new cell will have a unique advantage -- the half-millimetre-thick silicon wafer into which researchers have etched a network of deep pores. This structure vastly increases the exposed surface area, creating a device that is 10 times more efficient than planar designs.