The SILEX Laser Isotope Separation (LIS) technology was invented by Silex Systems scientists Dr Michael Goldsworthy and Dr Horst Struve in the 1990s 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 additional 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 Enrichment: for the production of natural and enriched uranium
- Silicon Enrichment: for the emerging silicon quantum computing industry