Industry sharing success in fusion
Industry and fusion laboratories have already worked together successfully on numerous projects. The four success stories below reflect strong collaboration between fusion research and industry for mutual benefit, paving the way for more successful collaborations in the future.
Fusion technologies can offer EU industry some exciting competitive advantages, and the Euratom Fusion research programme encourages enterprises, small and large, to seize these unique opportunities.
Technology transfer from fusion research has already contributed to many spin-off enterprises in areas such as high-heat flux components, super conducting magnets for medical imaging systems (MRI), high power industrial microwaves, plasma physics software and diagnostics, adaptations for semiconductor and thin-film fabrication. There have also been contribution to new high tech textile weaving equipment and new carbon-composite materials.
Four company success stories are briefly described below. To find out more on these case studies and achievements of other companies download the brochure Fusion and Industry together for the Future.
MAN DWE GmbH, Germany
Once completed, the Wendelstein 7-X will be the world's most advanced fusion device using the stellarator design concept. In a stellarator a helical magnetic field is produced by a complex arrangement of external coils in a twisted shape. This means that the enclosing vacuum vessel is also closely adapted to the twisted plasma shape it must contain, and looks correspondingly peculiar: a twisted, approximately ring-shaped stainless-steel configuration with a circumference of about 36 metres. This complicated yet elegant vessel is assembled from several hundred individual components. It is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and technology accomplished by the reactor and instrument engineering company, MAN DWE GmbH of Deggendorf, Lower Bavaria.
After five years of production work, MAN DWE is proud of achievements that have afforded enormous mutual technological benefit and powerful advantages both to the company itself and to the client, the Max-Planck Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP) at Garching. In particular MAN DWE now routinely uses the system of three-dimensional computer-aided design introduced for the contract in areas such as the refinery and process field. Likewise, the experience gained in ultra-high vacuum technology has secured for the company further orders in the field of physical plant engineering. In addition, a robot initially used for exact positioning of the components in the vacuum vessel of Wendelstein 7-X is now being innovatively applied in instrument engineering.
The Tore Supra tokamak of the Association Euratom-CEA features the injection of intense microwave energy to stimulate high-power long-duration plasma operation. Achieving this has required the development of a new antenna component, the so called "Lower Hybrid Passive Active Multi-junction (PAM) microwave launcher" that could also test ITER-relevant features for neutron shielding and efficient cooling. The device was ordered, following a European tender call from the French company SDMS near Grenoble. This company of around 120 employees specialises in pressure vessel technology, cryogenic and vacuum equipment and high technology assembly methods.
The main fabrication challenge was the creation of a multi-waveguide structure requiring the machining of 17 copper to stainless steel bonded sandwich layers joined by brazing. In particular, one aspect of the manufacture required the use of a special brazing tool that could operate reliably at high pressures and temperatures. This tool is now the subject of a patent registration by CEA. The fabrication of the antenna structure was a complete success, showing what can be achieved through close collaboration and open information exchange between industry and the Euratom fusion research programme.
Ansaldo Richerche SpA, Italy
The divertor in ITER will perform the vital task of removing impurities from the burning plasma but will be subject to extreme heat flux, which requires the development of novel manufacturing technologies. Joint research-industry collaboration between Italian Association Euratom ENEA and Ansaldo Richerche SpA has successfully demonstrated prototype components in this respect. A full monoblock vertical divertor target was manufactured and successfully tested at a variety of facilities including an incredible 35 MW/m² critical heat flux test under relevant thermal-hydraulics conditions.
The collaboration culminated with the manufacturing of a qualification prototype that will be used for the EU company qualification for ITER procurement. This final component incorporates all the technology aspects needed for manufacturing the ITER plasma facing units. The qualification prototype was successfully manufactured exploiting the know-how of both partners and newly developed technologies. Two patents have resulted from this development and European industry has now the possibility to exploit this technology.
The beryllium wall tiles of ITER must absorb the immense heat from the fusion plasma and transfer it to heat sink components to ensure the reliable operation of the tokamak. To bond the tiles to the heat sink components, high quality manufacturing processes and controls are required, while working with a material (beryllium) that is hazardous in the manufacturing environment. First Wall Panels (FWPs) are covered with beryllium and form the majority of the internal tokamak surface. Following ten years of research and development, the technology is now at the industrialisation stage.
Careful process development and fine-tuning will be essential for cost-effective manufacture of full-scale components for ITER. UK engineering company AMEC worked with its supply chain to refine the many exacting individual processes and control systems. The result is a full-scale ITER FWP that is being successfully tested under realistic conditions. AMEC sees continued involvement in ITER and related fusion projects, giving the company a strategic position as an integrator for the design and engineering of future fusion power plants.