A Sydney-based deep-tech startup that recently achieved a world-first hydrogen fusion milestone using a laser has today been awarded a $22 million project to help develop Australia’s sovereign nuclear fusion energy capabilities.
HB11 Energy, which is commercializing the scientific research of Professor Heinrich Hora, has been awarded the project to develop the next generation of high-power lasers needed to create a nuclear fusion energy industry in Australia, and export that capability to the world.
The project, which forms a $50 million Trailblazer grant awarded to the University of Adelaide and the University of New South Wales, will see HB11 assist with the proof-of-concept and development of new petawatt laser technology that is suited to generating hydrogen-boron fusion.
Hydrogen-boron reactions provide large-scale power for base-load grid electricity, using fuels that are safe and abundant. This fusion approach creates insignificant amounts of short-lived waste as it does not generate neutrons in the primary reaction.
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 quantity than all existing renewable energy sources combined.
According to HB11 co-founder and managing director Dr. Warren McKenzie, nuclear fusion could create tens of billions of dollars of economic value for Australia.
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 manufacturings 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 recently exhibited what Professor Hora proved theoretically as a path to clean energy generation, using a laser to demonstrate a “material” number of fusion reactions between hydrogen and boron-11.
More energy was created than predicted from the process, taking the HB11 team one step closer to the net energy gain goal that has proven elusive to the international hydrogen nuclear fusion sector to date.
Unlike other fusion projects around the world whereby hydrogen isotopes are heated to millions of degrees, costing billions of dollars, HB11’s method – based on an idea from co-founder Professor Heinrich Hora – is non-thermal.
The company’s world-first results were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Applied Sciences, with the experiment producing 10 times more fusion reactions than expected based on earlier experiments at the same facility.
When the milestone was announced, McKenzie told Business News Australia that the company had commenced a Series A funding round aiming for US$20 million (AUD$26.7 million), and had recruited CSIRO head of commercialization Ellen Gorissen as its general manager commercial to lead the process.
This came just over a year after an oversubscribed $4.8 million pre-seed raise last February, which was followed by a $2 million Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant announced in August.