Nuclear fusion laser player nabs $22m grant, says it could be the start of a multi-billion-dollar industry in Australia
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Earlier this year Australia’s first nuclear fusion energy company, HB11, used a laser to smash hydrogen atoms into boron, demonstrating a ‘material’ number of fusion reactions in a world-first.
And now the company has been awarded $22 million to develop the next-generation high-power lasers needed to create a multi-billion dollar nuclear fusion energy industry in Australia and export this capability to the world.
The project forms part of a $50 million Trailblazer grant awarded to the University of Adelaide and University of New South Wales under the “Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability” bid.
It comprises a $6 million grant and $16 million in contributions from partners.
The plan is for HB11 Energy to assist with the proof-of-concept and development of new petawatt laser technology that is suited to generating hydrogen-boron fusion.
Hydrogen Fusion – HB11 Energy Awarded $22m Laser Project to Build Sovereign Nuclear Fusion Energy Capabilities@WRMcKenzie#HB11Energy#HeinrichHora#HydrogenCentral #HydrogenNews #Hydrogen #FuelCell #HydrogenEconomy #HydrogenMarkethttps://t.co/lu1TSOC8YX
— Hydrogen Central (@HydrogenCentral) May 2, 2022
By using laser tech to fuse hydrogen and boron-11, unlimited electricity can be generated by small nuclear fusion reactors that use abundant fuels with little or no harmful waste,
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, while Boron-11 comprises some 80% of all boron found in nature, is readily available, and is a stable, non-radioactive isotope.
The company says that establishing this capability on home soil would also re-establish Australia as a leader in fusion technology, after Australian physicist Sir Mark Oliphant first experimentally demonstrated nuclear fusion by splitting the atom in 1932.
“The nuclear fusion energy industry alone could create billions in economic value for Australia, as long as we continue to see significant investment from Australian investors and governments,” HB11 founder and MD Dr Warren McKenzie said.
“If HB11 Energy’s research program is successful, it will place Australia at the heart of an industry deploying the only truly safe, scalable, and extremely low-cost future energy.”
HB11 Energy says the $22 million project is of critical importance not just to all industries and companies working on technologies dependent on high-powered lasers.
“On this journey, there is also a new multi-billion-dollar industry to be built in both manufacturing these lasers and developing their applications in industries such as clean energy, health, manufacturing, quantum computing, and many others,” Dr McKenzie says.
“This Trailblazer grant opens a fantastic opportunity for Australia to lead these new industries and capture new advanced manufacturing opportunities that will grow from them.”
Unlike other nuclear and fossil-fuel burning plants, HB11 Energy’s energy-generating process does not require large plants.
Energy is released in the form of charged particles and can directly be converted to electricity without the need for steam turbines.
This approach generates few neutrons through minority side reactions, which minimises waste issues.
There’s no risk of a reactor meltdown and the energy generated can be directed straight to the grid.
Dr McKenzie also says it’s the only technology in his opinion – apart from regular nuclear – that has the scale to replace coal, oil or gas as an energy source.