HB11 Energy gets federal grant for $1.76m project, signs bilateral deal

Dr. Warren McKenzie, Founder and Managing Director of HB11 Energy
Dr. Warren McKenzie, Founder and Managing Director of HB11 Energy

Australia’s first laser fusion energy company HB11 Energy signed a bilateral agreement with the University of Salamanca (USAL) and the Spanish Pulsed Lasers Centre (CLPU), to bolster laser fusion energy development in Australia and Spain. This will give HB11 Energy access to Spain’s most powerful petawatt-class laser, operated by CLPU, which uses similar tech to the Livermore National Ignition Facility (NIF) where net energy gain was recently achieved.

The Australian Government, through the Australian Research Council (ARC), has also awarded a $560,000 ARC Linkage grant towards a $1.76m project for the development of HB11 Energy’s home-grown hydrogen-boron laser fusion, hosted by UNSW and involving collaborators at Macquarie University, University of Bordeaux and Spain’s CLPU.

What does the bilateral agreement mean for Australia?

Australia’s Ambassador to Spain Sophia McIntyre attended the agreement signing, due to the huge national potential for the bilateral partnership to put both countries at the forefront of the global race to clean, safe, reliable, and unlimited energy production using laser fusion.

Her Excellency Sophia McIntyre, Australia’s Ambassador to Spain, said: “HB11 Energy’s research with CPLU is groundbreaking and an example of the growing science and tech ties between Australia and Spain. Collaborations like these place Australia in the vanguard of global research and help build our scientific knowledge base, ensuring we stay competitive.”

Accessing CLPU facilities is critical to HB11 Energy – and Australia as a whole – because Australia doesn’t currently have the laser required for this work, whereas the laser owned by CLPU is a short-pulsed variety which is most advantageous for hydrogen-boron fusion.

Conversely, Spanish Pulsed Lasers Centre (CLPU) is particularly interested in HB11 Energy and its Australian and international collaborative network, because the company offers a best-practise approach to sourcing clean and affordable energy through laser fusion, and because of the capabilities it has built such as materials and laser target fabrication.

The combination of Spain’s expertise in nuclear science and ownership of ultra-high intensity laser facilities, with Australia’s capability and personnel in laser science and tech, make for a strategically-matched partnership that will progress science for fusion energy generation.

What does this mean for HB11 Energy and CLPU?

Dr. Warren McKenzie said: “The co-founder of HB11 Energy, Prof Heinrich Hora, first theorised about laser fusion in the late ‘70s and pioneered the field at UNSW Sydney. But the high-powered lasers needed to achieve the hydrogen-boron laser fusion didn’t exist back then.”

“Partnerships with the University of Salamanca and the CLPU are crucial for fusion energy research, like the research we will be conducting under the ARC Linkage grant, and beyond.”

“Australia needs to build its national laser fusion energy capability if we are going to lead the race towards fusion energy. This is one of the many steps HB11 Energy is taking towards this goal, which will raise the profile of Australian research into laser fusion energy at a time when many govts around the world are planning major international laser fusion programs.”

Dr Maria Dolores Rodriguez Frias, Director of CLPU
Dr Maria Dolores Rodriguez Frias, Director of CLPU

Dr Maria Dolores Rodriguez Frias, Director of CLPU, said: “Since the achievement of the laser laboratory NIF (US), Ignition is a reality in nuclear fusion. At Spanish Pulsed Lasers Centre we host the most powerful laser in Spain that counts among the three most powerful in the world at a high repetition rate. We are sure that this agreement will enhance our capabilities and strengthen our common interests fostering a green fusion energy in the next decades.”

Which dignitaries attended the signing?

The agreement signing was attended by:

  • Director of CLPU María Dolores Rodríguez 
  • Scientific advisor at CLPU and long-time HB11 Energy collaborator Dr. Luca Volpe
  • HB11 Energy’s director and co-founder Jan Kirchoff
  • HB11 Energy lead scientists Dimitri Batani and Sergey Pikuz
  • Minister of Education of the Junta de Castilla y León, Rocío Lucas
  • Rector of the University of Salamanca, Ricardo Rivero

It follows HB11 Energy’s recent establishment of a coalition of global laser technology heavyweights designed to kickstart Australia’s laser industry and develop a petawatt-class laser facility locally. It also follows a CLPU experiment on proton boron fusion performed by a large collaboration of academics led by HB11 Energy, which is now one of very few laser experiments globally that has actually demonstrated a material number of fusion reactions.