Phoenix Nuclear Labs Looks to Diversify in Defense, Energy

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beam and accelerated to about 10 million miles per hour. Phoenix has also developed a way to use this ion beam to cleave silicon that can be used to make solar cells. Radel says the hydrogen embedded beneath the surface of raw materials, known as ingots, allows the beam to extract a layer of silicon, the costliest part of a solar panel.

On its website, Phoenix says it’s the exclusive supplier of the particle accelerator technology used by Santa Monica, CA-based Rayton Solar, which makes solar panels that it claims use 50 to 100 times less silicon than the industry standard.

Calibrating nuclear sensors is another use for Phoenix’s technology. In February 2014, the company announced its first commercial sale to a U.K. customer that’s part of Ultra Electronics. Radel says this business would most likely sell its technology to companies that make nuclear reactors. The arrangement further suggests that Phoenix’s goals aren’t completely aligned with those of Shine, which is seeking to remove reactors from the isotope-making process. (Its particle accelerator approach is an alternative to using a reactor.)

If Shine, which Piefer founded after leaving Phoenix in 2010, can start producing molybdenum-99 down the line, it won’t be at its current headquarters but rather at a facility in Janesville, WI, which it plans to break ground on in 2017. Radel says Phoenix probably won’t follow Shine and relocate to Janesville.

Despite having several other applications for its technology, Phoenix has placed many of its eggs in the isotope-making basket, and its fortunes are tied in part to Shine’s. Do outside experts think Shine will succeed in penetrating the market?

A source with detailed knowledge of the program, who asked not to be identified by name, says there are pros to Shine’s accelerator-based approach, such as the ease of turning off the system compared to a reactor. However, the source says, “there are more easily achieved proposals against which they are competing,” which has resulted in financing being “extremely hard to secure” for a company going the accelerator route like Shine.

All the more reason, it seems, for Phoenix to diversify its product line.

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Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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