HB11 sets sights on Australian petawatt-class laser facility

Founder and CEO of HB11 Energy Dr Warren McKenzie with cofounder Prof Heinrich Hora (spain)
Founder and CEO of HB11 Energy Dr Warren McKenzie with co-founder Prof Heinrich Hora

Australia’s first laser fusion energy company HB11 Energy has created a coalition of global laser technology heavyweights to kickstart a new Australian laser industry, including by developing an ultra-high-intensity petawatt-class laser facility on Australian soil.

This consortium will see Australia pioneer many new areas of technology, including clean fusion energy generation, sovereign advanced manufacturing capability, and Ultrashort & Short Pulse Laser (USPL) education and talent.

It will include, among others, 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.

Related article: Nuclear fusion breakthrough: how scientists can turn ignition achievement into a new clean power source

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
  • Establish a local sovereign advanced manufacturing industry for key components of USPL systems
  • Build a workforce of experts in USPL science, design, and manufacture as a foundation to grow the emerging industry.

Achieving these goals could significantly advance Australia in its race towards becoming a global sustainable energy superpower using fusion energy as a core component of the future clean energy mix.

Petawatt-class lasers have a range of applications beyond fusion energy, including benefits which will advance medical imaging and radiobiology, advanced sensing, directed energy, and the elimination of long-lived radioactive waste, to name just a few.

HB11 founder 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.

Related article: HB11 demonstrates nuclear fusion using laser

“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 that would also see Australia become a global leader in fusion energy science, amongst our allies UK, US, and Japan. For HB11 Energy, it would allow us to keep our R&D on home soil.

“It was an Australian, Sir Mark Oliphant who demonstrated nuclear fusion by splitting the atom in 1931, with the field of laser fusion being pioneered by our co-founder Prof Heinrich Hora. A local, dedicated facility would allow our research to remain in Australia instead of being lost to overseas markets, investors, or partners.”

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