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Fusion reactors: extreme materials, intense plasma wall interaction

This course treats plasma-edge physics and the extreme material challenges in fusion energy.

Contents:

Whereas most we hear about the challenges of fusion energy in the press is about the spectacular science of plasmas at a temperature in excess of 100 Million degrees, the stability of magnetic confinement, and the unprecedented power fluxes to the wall, the success of fusion energy ultimately depends on our ability to make materials that can cope with the extreme demands: extreme neutron fluxes, extremely high heat and particle fluxes with ensuing gradients and stresses, extremely high magnetic fields, and the challenge of generating fuel inside the reactor.

This course first gives an overview of these challenges by relating them to the design and functional requirement of a fusion reactor. Then relevant issues of the plasma-surface interaction are discussed, starting from the hot, confined plasma, the edge plasma and its ‘Edge-Localized Modes’, going towards the wall through the Scrape-off-layer (SOL), the Sheath where the plasma wall interaction takes place, on finally the plasma-facing material and the cooling.

The taught material is complemented by experiments in PlasmaLab and an excursion to the Magnum-PSI high flux plasma generator at DIFFER, where lectures and hands-on experiments make up additional course elements.

The part on materials starts with a crash course ‘materials science’. On that foundation the course builds 3 pillars, each taught by a specialist guest lecturer. The three topics are:

  • Neutron damage, and how to make neutron hard materials for structural applications in the reactor. And the generation of tritium/fuel cycle.
  • Plasma Facing components: how do they take the heat and particle loads, what can be done to make survive more than a few months in the harsh environment inside a fusion reactor? FEM modeling of these components.
  • Superconducting magnets: from the basics of superconductivity to the design of the huge magnets for ITER.

As an extra, a master class on the principles of fission reactors is given, leading to a discussion of GenIV reactor concept, of which the characteristics can be compared to fusion.

During two full day excursions the students visit a nuclear facility and the superconducting magnet laboratory at Twente University. These excursions combine lecturing with hands-on experiments and a tour of facilities.

Course ID: 
3MF120
Institution: 
Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands