Sydney, Feb 22 (IANS) An Australian fusion startup called HB11 which is a spin-off from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, has secured patents for its ground-breaking, laser-driven technique for fusion energy generation that promises clear, safe energy.
Unlike earlier methods, the laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy is completely safe as it does not rely on radioactive fuel and leaves no toxic radioactive waste, the university said in a statement on Saturday.
HB11 Energy secured its intellectual property rights in Japan last week, following recent grants in China and the US.
Conceived by UNSW Emeritus Professor of theoretical physics Heinrich Hora, HB11 Energy’s concept differs radically from other experimental fusion projects.
“After investigating a laser-boron fusion approach for over four decades at UNSW, I am thrilled that this pioneering approach has now received patents in three countries,” said Professor Hora.
“These granted patents represent the eve of HB11 Energy’s seed-stage fundraising campaign that will establish Australia’s first commercial fusion company, and the world’s only approach focused on the safe hydrogen – boron reaction using lasers,” Hora added.
The preferred fusion approach employed by most fusion groups is to heat Deuterium-Tritium fuel well beyond the temperature of the Sun (or almost 15 million degrees Celsius).
Rather than heating the fuel, HB11’s hydrogen-boron fusion is achieved using two powerful lasers whose pulses apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.
Most other sources of power production, such as coal, gas and nuclear, rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines.
In contrast, the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity allowing for much smaller and simpler generators.
The two-laser approach needed for HB11 Energy’s hydrogen-boron fusion only became possible recently thanks to advances in laser technology that won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.
“The clean and absolutely safe reactor can be placed within densely populated areas, with no possibility of a catastrophic meltdown such as that which has been seen with nuclear fission reactors,” Professor Hora noted.
According to Dr Warren McKenzie, Managing Director of HB11 Energy, the approach could be the only way to achieve very low carbon emissions by 2050.
“As we aren’t trying to heat fuels to impossibly high temperatures, we are sidestepping all of the scientific challenges that have held fusion energy back for more than half a century,” McKenzie said.