about Silex: Silex technology

SILEX - Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation

Silex is pioneering the development and commercialisation of its proprietary laser-based isotope separation technology known as SILEX.

The unique SILEX technology has a number of commercial applications, including:

  Uranium Enrichment - nuclear fuel for electricity production.
  Silicon Enrichment - for advanced semiconductor materials.
  Carbon Enrichment - for advanced semiconductor and medical diagnostic materials.

Together with our research and development partners, SILEX is leading the world in developing technologies to create and utilise a new generation of ultra-pure "isotopically engineered" materials.

Uranium Isotopes

uranium diagram

Nuclear Fuel requires Uranium "enriched" in the 235 isotope.

The SILEX technology has a number of potential advantages over existing isotope separation processes including:

Low power consumption and capital costs.
Relatively simple and practical separation modules.
Modular technology providing versatility in deployment.

SILEX technology utilises lasers to separate or enrich the naturally occurring isotopes of an element to create ‘new’ materials with different qualities. This technology results in applications with extensive market value and potential.

Applications include:

Nuclear   Semiconductor   Medical Diagnostic
Uranium Silicon Carbon
Zirconium Carbon Oxygen

Uranium

Historically, Uranium Enrichment has been Silex’s primary focus.

Uranium Enrichment is a technically difficult process, and is key to producing fuel for the global Nuclear Power industry, which currently provides approximately 18% of the world’s electricity.

The largest market for nuclear fuel is the USA, which currently relies on over 100 nuclear power plants for more than 20% of its electricity requirements. Silex has traditionally viewed the US market as the most likely home for SILEX Uranium Enrichment technology.

In May 2000, the US-Australian Agreement for Cooperation for the development of SILEX Technology was approved by President Clinton and the US Congress. In June 2001, the SILEX Technology was officially Classified by the US and Australian Governments, bringing the project formally under the security and regulatory protocols of each country.

The Uranium application of SILEX is currently in stage 2 of a 3 stage development program, involving the verification of process efficiency and economics in a significant scale engineering prototype facility. Stage 2 is expected to be complete in late 2004 or early 2005. Stage 3 involves the construction and operation of a Pilot Plant Facility, probably in the US.

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Zirconium

In September 2000, Silex signed an agreement with the Westinghouse Electric Company (US), to investigate the feasibility of separating zirconium isotopes using the SILEX Process.

Westinghouse is one of the largest producers of "nuclear grade" zirconium, used (in its natural form) to make fuel cladding for nuclear power reactors around the world.

Enriched zirconium has the potential to improve the efficiency of the worlds nuclear reactors.

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Silicon

Semiconductor devices, which are integral to all computer and electronic systems, are generally made from silicon.

Today’s computer chips and electronic devices are reaching their performance barriers, due to the technical limitations involved with using silicon in its existing form. Thermal management is one such issue.

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Enriched Silicon-28 wafers may improve thermal management.

Interest is now growing in the potential benefits of using isotopically pure silicon in advanced semiconductor applications.

To date, no economically viable source of enriched silicon has emerged. The company is currently examining the technical and commercial feasibility of producing enriched silicon using SILEX Technology.
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Carbon

Synthetic diamond heat spreaders and heat sinks, made today from natural carbon, are also used in the semiconductor industry. Research shows that synthetic diamond made from enriched carbon also exhibits significantly improved thermal conductivity.

The potential for SILEX Technology to produce enriched Carbon–12 being investigated. The ‘by-product’ from this application (Carbon–13) is already used extensively in biomedical applications, and could therefore add value to a SILEX carbon isotope separation venture if successful.

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