Locals drive laser fusion
An Australian company is working on generating limitless power with giant lasers.
Australia’s first fusion energy company - HB11 Energy - has demonstrated what it says is a world-first ‘material’ number of fusion reactions by a private company, producing ten times more fusion reactions than expected based on earlier experiments at the same facility.
HB11 Energy’s world-first results were published 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 latest demonstration appears to overcome this technical hurdle that has held the field back for decades and prevented most other fusion companies from demonstrating any fusion reactions.
The experiment was a collaboration involving many of HB11 Energy’s growing list of international academic partners, and was led by HB11 Energy Lead Scientist Dimitri Batani and collaborator Daniele Margarone.
HB11 Energy says its results bring it closer to creating clean, safe, and reliable energy at better prices and in greater abundance than all existing renewable energy sources combined.
For nuclear fusion to have commercial applications, it must create a net energy gain, in which 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.
The technology has serious potential for clean energy generation: hydrogen-boron reactions use fuels that are safe and abundant, do not 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.
However, 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, meaning Australia has a long way to go in creating sovereign capability in this critical industry, according to HB11 Energy.