Attainment of the goal of fusion power production involves exciting and stimulating technological challenges. The underlying basic science, plasma physics and a whole range of supporting technologies have advanced in leaps and bounds thanks to the co-ordinated R&D efforts on fusion.
Along the way, many of these leading edge technologies are being pushed to new limits and in many cases provide innovative solutions to challenging problems in applications far beyond the bounds of fusion power generation. There are numerous examples of spin-offs with applications in industry, providing real solutions to new and current problems. The exploitation of spin-offs from the technologies developed within the fusion research programme is of tremendous benefit to European economic competitiveness.
Specific Spin-offs include:
- Remote handling systems
- Semiconductor manufacturing
- Large area plasma etching and deposition
- Extreme Ultra Violet (EUV) Lithography
- Thin film deposition EUV masks
- Precision EUV optical elements
- X-ray micro-lithography
- Direct write e-beam array using nano-tube electron field emitters
- Ion implantation
- Plasma high definition TV (HDTV) display panels
The new technologies are found in many surprising sectors:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Medical/health: Laser cavity drilling, medical isotope separation, tissue welding, continuous glucose monitors, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Material processing: microwave sintering, enhanced chemical vapour deposition (EPCVD), laser machining, rapid crystal growth.
Waste processing: Waste vitrification, plasma torch, microwave spallation of contaminated surfaces.
Technology moving forward
A feature of the European fusion research programme is the constant knowledge transfer between the programme, industry and the wider scientific community. The ITER project adds an exciting new challenge promising a wealth of additional spin-off opportunities for those industries involved. Large companies, many of whom may already have experience of operating on an international stage, will be involved in ITER. Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) will also be involved either directly, or indirectly as subcontractors, giving them the opportunity to widen their experience. Involvement in a project on the scale of ITER should bring benefits from the enhancement of the international profile of the company - of particular relevance to SME’s.
The technology transfer process associated with fusion R&D involves a continuous interaction between the fusion research community and industry. Both sides benefit from this with both fundamental and applied fusion R&D leading to many spin-off technologies, the formation of new companies and, in some cases, to whole new industry sectors .