Australia’s HB11 Energy aims for laser fusion energy

Australia’s first laser fusion energy company HB11 Energy has brought together global laser technology leaders including Nobel prize winners, aiming to develop a new Australian laser industry and develop laser fusion technologies.

The group (pictured) plan an ultra high intensity petawatt-class laser facility on Australian soil, bringing new technologies to the country including clean fusion energy generation, sovereign advanced manufacturing capability, and Ultrashort & Short Pulse Laser (USPL) education and talent.

HB11 Energy has brought together engineering multinational Thales Group, Japan’s first-ever laser fusion company EX-Fusion, the University of Adelaide, long-time global leaders in high-energy laser science the Institute of Laser Engineering Osaka University, engineering firm BECA and laser component manufacturer Southern Photonics.

Also included are Nobel Prize winner Professor Donna Strickland, who invented the technology to reach high powers, HB11 Energy co-founder Professor Heinrich Hora who has worked in the field of laser fusion since the 1960s and CEO of Southern Photonics Professor John Harvey.

It was a South Australian, Sir Mark Oliphant who demonstrated nuclear fusion by splitting the atom in 1931 – he later went on help develop radar and to participate in the Manhattan Project which created the world’s first atomic bomb.

The goals of the coalition are to:

  • Achieve Australian petawatt laser capability, as an internationally significant research infrastructure investment
  • Build the partners’ capabilities for participation in large scientific partnerships, including public-private-partnerships (PPPs) for laser fusion energy
  • Develop applications for Ultrashort & Short Pulse Laser (USPL) systems, including directed energy and laser fusion for clean energy generation
  • Identify laser design, engineering, and development opportunities as a focus for investment, and acquire an Australian petawatt laser
  • And establish a local sovereign advanced manufacturing industry for key components of USPL systems; and
    Build a workforce of experts in USPL science, design, and manufacture as a foundation to grow the emerging industry.

Founder and Managing Director of HB11 Dr Warren McKenzie said: “Australia needs a large-scale solution as it phases out its legacy energy systems and embraces clean energy.

“This is exactly what fusion energy can provide: clean energy that does not use any radioactive fuels and does not generate radioactive waste.

“It has the scale of a nuclear reactor and the safety of traditional renewable sources, while also generating electricity directly, without the requirement of a steam-cycle.”

VP Strategy of Thales Australia Gary Dawson said Thales had a global commitment to support the development of clean energy solutions and is a long-term investor in advanced technology research in Australia.

Dawson said: “The ultra-short-pulse and high-peak-power laser technology developed and manufactured by Thales is critical for this coalition, and we are excited to be working with this international team at the cutting edge of fusion energy research.”

Currently there are 71 ultra-high intensity laser facilities in the world but, despite Australia being prominent in laser science and technology, there are none in the southern hemisphere including Australia.

McKenzie said: “Recent breakthroughs have propelled laser-based fusion to the front of the global race towards this holy-grail of energy generation.

“However, the lack of lasers capable of performing fusion experiments is the primary bottle-neck limiting progress globally.

“This presents an opportunity for Australia to develop the next-generation of purpose-built laser systems and advanced manufacturing.”

Picture: HB11 Energy/Signatories to the coalition of world leaders interested in establishing a sovereign high-power laser industry: (1) University of Adelaide: Prof. Anton Middleberg, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research, University of Adelaide (seated), with leader of the Ultra-Short-Pulse Laser (USPL) Group, Miftar Gunja (2) HB11 Energy: Dr. Warren McKenzie, Founder Managing Director of HB11 Energy, with co-founder and Scientific Director Prof. Heinrich Hora and Lead Scientist of Experimental Physics, A/Prof. Sergey Pikuz (3) BECA: David Barter, Director of Defence (4) Southern Photonics: Prof. John Harvey, CEO (5) Thales Australia and Thales LAS France SAS: Alan Stevenson and Anne Munroe (not photographed) (6) EX-Fusion (Japan): Mack Wilson and Koichi Masuda (7) Macquarie University: Prof. Alex Fuerbach (not photographed). We were also joined by Prof. Keisuke Shingemori, Deputy Director of Institute for Laser Energetics, Osaka University (Japan).

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