SILEX Laser Isotope Separation Technology

The SILEX Laser Isotope Separation (LIS) technology was invented by Silex Systems scientists Dr Michael Goldsworthy and Dr Horst Struve in the 1990’s at its Lucas Heights facility south of Sydney, Australia.

Initially, the Silex team investigated LIS techniques for several stable elements, including Chlorine, Molybdenum, Carbon, Oxygen and Silicon. Being the single largest commercial isotope market in the world, activities also focused increasingly on Uranium enrichment. It is worth noting that Australia has the largest uranium reserves in the world (around one-third of the total) however, Australia only mines uranium and sells it as uranium oxide (‘yellowcake’) – with no further processing permitted.

Several of the stable element isotopes noted above already have existing commercial markets and production is achieved via traditional methods such as cryogenic distillation (carbon and oxygen) and gas centrifuge (others listed above). There are emerging markets for isotopes in the medical radiopharmaceutical industry, such as Molybdenum and Ytterbium. The SILEX technology can potentially be applied to the enrichment of some of these valuable isotopes.

Today, Silex is actively pursuing two applications of the SILEX LIS Technology:

URANIUM

Through our 51% owned subsidiary Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), the path to market for our uranium technology is based on the Paducah uranium project in the United States, which has the potential to produce up to 5 million pounds of uranium annually for approximately 30 years, equivalent to a ‘Tier 1’ uranium project based on the low cost of production and longevity.

The Paducah project is underpinned by an agreement between GLE and the US Department of Energy for the purchase of over 200,000 metric tons of depleted UF6 tails, which will be enriched using the SILEX laser technology to produce natural grade uranium for sale into the global uranium market, and then further enriched to produce nuclear fuel for clean electricity generation.

Uranium ESG focus – nuclear power for a clean energy future

Our key application – uranium production and enrichment, is core to our ESG focus. In an energy-hungry, carbon-constrained world, nuclear energy offers the unique possibility to produce emissions-free baseload energy at very competitive costs to renewables, whilst providing stability to the world’s electricity grids. Nuclear is the perfect complement to renewables.

SILICON

Silex is developing its SILEX laser enrichment technology for the production of highly enriched ‘Zero-Spin Silicon’ – an enabling material for silicon quantum computing. Quantum computing will transform humanity’s computing capabilities, allowing complex and difficult global issues to be solved, such as:

  • more powerful modelling of global climate systems to help develop climate change mitigation and adoption strategies; and
  • more powerful modelling of diseases and pharmaceutical development, such as in the case of COVID-19.

The 3-year development project planned for completion at the end of 2022, being conducted in conjunction with UNSW Sydney and Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd (SQC), will culminate in the operation of a pilot production facility that will potentially be capable of producing initial commercial quantities of ZS-Si for sale to SQC under a 2019 offtake agreement.

Silicon ESG focus – next-generation computing to solve global challenges

Quantum computers, expected to be thousands of times more powerful than the most advanced conventional computers, will open new frontiers and opportunities in many industries, including medicine, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and global financial systems. Quantum computing will have the capability to solve many of humanity’s most vexing challenges.

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