October 12, 2023 - 2:06 pm

Startup Spotlight: GenAlpha Nuclear Technologies LLC

By 20Fathoms

Through the 20Fathoms Startup Spotlight series, get to know who is building companies in Northern Michigan and what advice they have for those just getting started.

This month, we talked to Austin Lo, Chief Research Officer with GenAlpha Nuclear Technologies LLC.

Austin Lo, Chief Research Officer, GenAlpha Nuclear Technologies LLC

What problem does your organization solve? How?

We’re solving the “space nuclear power” problem, which is the inability to launch high-power nuclear reactors (>10MW, or about the amount of power it takes to run 10,000 homes) required to support life in space.

The issue: the current technology is way too heavy.

Our solution: using metal foam-based nuclear fuel. It’s a bit too complicated to explain in technical detail here, but in essence, using metal foam-based nuclear fuel allows us to operate power systems way hotter (around 3000F) than competing systems (the hottest can run <1800F currently). This fundamental change allows the power system to be reduced by at least a factor of 10 in size. 

Tell us about a recent “win” or milestone for your organization.

We’re scheduled to test our fuel design in a research and test nuclear reactor at the University of Texas at Austin in December.

What piece of advice would you offer other entrepreneurs?

For entrepreneurs in scientific R&D-heavy disciplines: GO TO CONFERENCES and present at them too. The connections you can make with both technical expertise and potential funding opportunities/collaborations will be invaluable to your development and (hopefully) success. Speak to the people who will “get you” because there will be many that won’t – and that gets pretty frustrating.  

How has being a member of 20Fathoms helped your business?

Connecting with people at 20Fathoms – both members and staff – has been invaluable to my progress with GenAlpha. Everyone I’ve met has been actively inclusive and helpful, allowing me to discover and tap into resources I never would’ve found on my own. As we all know in start-up land, everyone has their own path, but I’d argue that it takes a village to actually build that path. I’m happy to call 20Fathoms my village.

How can someone learn more about your organization?

Behind the scenes with GenAlpha Nuclear Technologies LLC