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:
Enrichment - nuclear fuel for electricity production.
Enrichment - for advanced semiconductor materials.
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
Nuclear Fuel requires Uranium "enriched" in the
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.
Historically, Uranium Enrichment has
been Silexs 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
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.
In September 2000, Silex signed an
agreement with the Westinghouse Electric Company (US), to investigate
the feasibility of separating zirconium isotopes using the SILEX
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
Enriched zirconium has the potential
to improve the efficiency of the worlds nuclear reactors.
Semiconductor devices, which are integral
to all computer and electronic systems, are generally made from
Todays 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.
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.
Enriched Silicon-28 wafers may improve thermal
Interest is now growing in the potential benefits of using isotopically
pure silicon in advanced semiconductor applications.
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
The potential for SILEX Technology
to produce enriched Carbon12 being investigated. The by-product
from this application (Carbon13) is already used extensively
in biomedical applications, and could therefore add value to a SILEX
carbon isotope separation venture if successful.