PhosEnergy receives $2.4 million to develop next-gen nuclear batteries

PhosEnergy will use GenX technology to develop the reliability of its nuclear battery technology.

The University of Adelaide’s industry partner, PhosEnergy, has received a $2,427,689 grant to further develop its nuclear battery technology for space and defence industries.

Under the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grant, which provides funding for short-term research collaborations, PhosEnergy can further develop the reliability and maintenance of its fuel-free nuclear battery technologies.

This funding will help University of Adelaide experts work with PhosEnergy on research that will directly improve the capability of the defence and space sectors, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Anton Middelberg said.

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

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

GenX technology was invented by PhosEnergy’s managing director, Bryn Jones, and chief scientist, Dr Julian Kelly.

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

The global market for power generation in space is already estimated to be worth $3.7 billion a year and is forecast to continue double-digit growth for the foreseeable future.

The global market will focus on extended missions, long-term habitation, and sustainable resource recovery on the moon, Jones said.

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

The university’s Professor Nigel 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.

Spooner’s research commitment is divided between the university and the Defence Science and Technology Group.

DEWC Systems, Duromer Products, the University of South Australia, and the University of Western Australia will also be part of the partnership working on this project.

The space and defence industries need more effective technology for their remote power generation, Spooner said.

“What sets this new generation of nuclear batteries apart is that they use beta particles unlike current batteries which use plutonium,” Spooner said.

“By selecting the beta isotope used, we can customise battery life according to different applications.”