At the center of our solar system and in the heart of active stars across the Universe, fusion generates the energy that delivers brilliance to both our day and nighttime skies. Under powerful gravitational fields, hydrogen atoms fuse into helium while releasing immense amount of energy and you’ve got a massive fusion powerplant, the sun, the ultimate clean and limitless source of energy. Scientists and engineers across the world are in pursuit of creating ‘the sun in a bottle’ – a fusion power plant – with the goal of creating the ultimate clean and sustainable energy source on earth. The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) are two leading organizations in the field of fusion developing such devices.
The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority is the UK national laboratory for fusion energy and operates the Joint European Torus (JET) experiment, which currently holds the record for the highest fusion power produced.
CFS spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is collaborating with MIT’s Plasmas Science and Fusion Center to leverage decades of research, combined with innovation and the speed of the private sector. Supported by the world’s leading investors in breakthrough energy technologies, the CFS team is uniquely positioned to deliver limitless, clean, fusion power to combat climate change.
There has yet to be a commercially relevant net energy fusion device. However, Tokamaks, a donut-shaped machine that confines fusion plasmas with a strong magnetic field are pushing towards the commercialization of relevant fusion energy. Tokamaks have been successfully constructed and studied around the world and have proven high performance. Unique operating conditions in Tokamaks require the use of specialized materials that can tolerate extreme conditions. Making fusion energy a reality will require innovations across many domains, including materials, manufacturing, and testing technologies.
Fusion materials can be divided into two broad categories: 1/ first wall materials and 2/ structural materials. The immediate surface next to plasma, first wall, is subjected to high temperatures, high heat fluxes, and electromagnetic fields, in addition to exposure to neutrons, electrons, and ions. Consequently, material selection is limited to certain refractory materials, such as tungsten and tungsten-heavy alloys. These first wall materials must be joined to the structural materials which, in addition to the first wall conditions, must withstand static and dynamic loads of the machine. Examples of suitable supporting materials include: reduced activation ferritic martensitic steel, nickel-based superalloys, high nickel content steel-based alloys, and austenitic steels.
To advance the development of fusion power plants, these two organizations jointly sponsor the Fusion Manufacturing Challenge.
The Challenge seeks to identify:
- Innovative new joining/bonding technologies for dissimilar materials, and
- Cutting-edge, non-destructive testing equipment to verify and inspect those bonds
Through this Challenge, UKAEA and CFS want to engage with innovators, entrepreneurs, industry and academic experts, founders, and organizations who are developing effective and efficient technologies across all sectors which can help accelerate the deployment of clean, abundant, and limitless fusion energy.
WEBINAR & OFFICE HOURS
On March 28, 2023 at 11 AM Eastern Standard Time, please join us for an informational webinar. During this webinar, you’ll hear about the challenge directly from representatives of UKAEA, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and TechConnect. Additionally, those representatives will answer your questions during a live Q&A session to follow the presentation.
Click here to register for the webinar. Have questions? Want to hear what others are asking about the Fusion Manufacturing Challenge? Sign up to attend Office Hours with a representative from TechConnect on April 11, 2023 at 11 AM Eastern Standard Time. Ask your questions during the one-hour Q&A. Register here.