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HB11 Energy demonstrates nuclear fusion, launches $22m laser project to build sovereign nuclear fusion energy capabilities

Dr Warren McKenzie (left) and Prof. Heinrich Hora of HB11 Energy. photo: HB11 Energy

Just weeks after demonstrating the world’s fusion reactions by a private company, Sydney-based fusion energy company HB11 Energy will launch a $22 million project 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 company demonstrated a world-first ‘material’ number of fusion reactions by a private company, producing ten times more fusion reactions than expected based on earlier experiments. HB11 Energy’s world-first results were published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Applied Sciences, and demonstrate non-thermal fusion of hydrogen and boron-11 using high-power lasers.

This approach was predicted in the 1970’s at UNSW by Australian theoretical physicist and HB11 Energy co-founder, Professor Heinrich Hora, and differs radically from most other fusion efforts to date that require heating of hydrogen isotopes to millions of degrees.

“The demonstration of fusion reactions alone is incredibly exciting,” said Dr Warren McKenzie, founder and managing director of HB11 Energy. “But on top of this, the unexpectedly high number of reactions additionally gives us important information about how to optimise our technology to further increase the fusion energy we can create.”

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 Energy’s research demonstrated that its hydrogen-boron energy technology is now 4 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.

However, the project was undertaken at the LFEX petawatt laser facility at Osaka University in Japan due to the lack of a local high-power laser facility, meaning Australia has a long way to go in creating sovereign capability in this critical industry, according to HB11 Energy.

The company’s $22 million laser project forms part of the $50 million Defence Trailblazer grant awarded to the Universities of Adelaide and New South Wales under their ‘Concept to Sovereign Capability’ bid. It comprises a $6 million grant and $16 million in contributions from partners and is a collaboration involving many of HB11 Energy’s growing list of international academic partners.

“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,” Dr McKenzie said. “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.

“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.”

HB11 Energy will assist with the proof-of-concept and development of new petawatt laser technology that is suited to generating hydrogen-boron fusion.

The project supports a key element of HB11 Energy’s technology roadmap towards creating clean, safe, and reliable energy at better prices and in greater abundance than all existing renewable energy sources combined.

Creating 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 and contributed to Ernest Rutherford’s work first splitting the atom in 1932.

With HB11 Energy being the only commercial entity to achieve Hydrogen Boron fusion so far, it is now the global frontrunner in the race to commercialise the holy grail of clean energy.

On the back of this result, HB11 has also recruited Ellen Gorissen as General Manager: Commercial, formerly the Investment Director at IP Group and Head of Commercialisation at CSIRO, to run a new Series A funding round.

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