• HB11 Energy uses a laser to smash hydrogen atoms into boron which produces a nuclear fusion reaction
  • The tech could have the scale to replace coal, oil or gas as an energy source
  • Currently Australia has no sovereign capability, with the project conducted in Japan


Australia’s first nuclear fusion energy company, HB11, has demonstrate a ‘material’ number of fusion reactions via non thermal fusion of hydrogen and boron 11 using high-power lasers in a world-first.

Basically, the company is using a laser to smash hydrogen atoms into boron, which produces a nuclear fusion reaction.

This means there’s no radioactive fuels or uncontrollable radioactive waste generated.

This approach was predicted back in the 1970s at UNSW by Australian theoretical physicist and HB11 Energy co-founder, Professor Heinrich Hora.

Plus, it differs from most other fusion efforts to date that require heating of hydrogen isotopes to millions of degrees.

HB11 says it has proven it can overcome this technical hurdle – one that has held the field back for decades and prevented most other fusion companies from demonstrating fusion reactions.


Tech could lead the way to clean energy

The Sydney-based private tech start-up produced “10 times more fusion reactions” than expected based on earlier experiments at the same facility.

HB11 founder and MD Warren McKenzie said the demonstration of fusion reactions alone is “incredibly exciting” but on top of this, the unexpectedly high number of reactions provides the start-up with important information about how to optimise the technology to increase the fusion energy it creates.

“Creating this fusion energy will achieve wonders in the way of safe, clean, and abundant energy for the whole world,” he said.

And McKenzie 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.

“Solar, wind, and hydrogen don’t have the scale, this is the only technology with the scale to actually broadly replace coal, oil or gas,” he said.


Commercial applications not far away

For nuclear fusion to have commercial applications, it must create a net energy gain whereby the energy output of a reaction significantly exceeds the energy input required to catalyse it.

HB11 has demonstrated that its hydrogen-boron energy technology is now four orders of magnitude away from achieving net energy gain when catalysed by a laser.

“This is many orders of magnitude higher than those reported by any other fusion company, most of which have not generated any reaction despite billions of dollars invested in the field,” McKenzie said.

“The results show great potential for clean energy generation: hydrogen-boron reactions use fuels that are safe and abundant, don’t create neutrons in the primary reaction so cause insignificant amounts of short-lived waste, and can provide large-scale power for base-load grid electricity or hydrogen generation.”


But Australia has no sovereign capability

The project was performed at the LFEX petawatt laser facility at Osaka University in Japan due to a lack of a local high-power laser facility because Australia has a long way to go in creating sovereign capability in this critical industry, HB11 says.

“In order to advance the field and to realise clean energy with fusion we absolutely need these lasers for almost every experiment that we need to do, so at the moment what that means for HB11 is we need to go to other facilities around the world,” McKenzie said.

“We can’t do any of the research here. We can do computer simulations and material sciences with fuels but as far as the key experiments go that actually demonstrate fusion – we can’t do it.”

But McKenzie says this technology was discovered by an Australian and he wants to keep it in country.

“If we want to keep it in Australia, we need to get investment into the field now so a lot more Australians can work on this,” he said.