Grant supercharges development of next-gen batteries

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GenX technology will be critical in the space and defence industries.

The University of Adelaide’s industry partner PhosEnergy has received a grant under the Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) Grants scheme to work with the University on development of next-generation nuclear batteries.

The University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Anton Middelberg said: “This latest funding will help University of Adelaide experts to work with our industry partner PhosEnergy on research that will directly improve the capability of the defence and space sectors.

“This funding will help our defence forces have access to cutting-edge technology that will help to ensure the safety of our nation and that of our trusted allies.

“A long-life, reliable, maintenance and fuel-free power system for low-Earth orbit, lunar and deep-space applications is critical for enabling the next phases of space exploration.”

“The burgeoning space industry and increasingly sophisticated remote defence sites where power-hungry technology is located are creating enormous demand for long-life, fuel-free power sources."PhosEnergy Managing Director Bryn Jones

A grant of $2,427,689 will be used to further develop PhosEnergy’s long-life, reliable, maintenance and fuel-free nuclear battery technology for space and defence industries and to improve the availability of people skilled in this area.

“We will progress to the development, commissioning, and validation of a capable pilot manufacturing process that can produce battery prototypes for end-user evaluation,” said Scott Edwards, General Manager - Generation Technologies at PhosEnergy Limited.

The GenX technology was invented by PhosEnergy’s Managing Director Bryn Jones and Chief Scientist Dr Julian Kelly.

“The burgeoning space industry and increasingly sophisticated remote defence sites where power-hungry technology is located are creating enormous demand for long-life, fuel-free power sources,” said Bryn.

“The global market for power generation in space is already estimated to be worth US $2.8 billion a year and is forecast to continue double-digit growth for the foreseeable future, with the focus on extended missions and long-term habitation and sustainable resource recovery on the Moon.”

The University’s Professor Nigel A. Spooner and Associate Professor Tony Hooker from the School of Physical Sciences in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, will lead the University’s role in the project.

“The space and defence industries currently need more effective technology for remote power generation as it currently limits their capability,” said Professor Spooner.

“What sets this new generation of nuclear batteries apart is that they use beta particles unlike current batteries which use plutonium. By selecting the beta isotope used we can customise battery life according to different applications.”

Secured integrated communications and sensor developments are driving the requirement for a portable and autonomous long-term power source.

Professor Spooner and Associate Professor Hooker work in the University’s Prescott Environmental Luminescence Laboratory (PELL) and the Centre for Radiation Research, Education and Innovation (CRREI). Professor Spooner’s research commitment is divided equally between the University and the Defence Science and Technology Group.

In addition to Adelaide company PhosEnergy Limited and the University working together on the project, the partnership includes DEWC Systems Pty Ltd, Duromer Products Pty Ltd, the University of South Australia and the University of Western Australia.

Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) Grants provide funding for short-term research collaborations.

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