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Examples of spin-off developments
Nine specific examples are presented here to illustrate not only the breadth of the technologies involved, but also the geographical spread across the member states contributing to the fusion programme. More details of these and other spin-off developments can be found in the document ‘Fusion Energy Moving Forward link 1’.
High heat flux components
Super-conductors improve MRI
Alstom in France gained extensive experience in superconductor R&D whilst working with CEA on the magnet systems for the Tore Supra experiment at Cadarache. The technology involves large-scale production of superconducting NbTi strands and this technology is now used in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines routinely used in many hospitals for scanning body tissue. Alstom itself produces about 2000 units per year.
High power microwaves for industry
Within the Fusion R&D programme a consortium of Associations (FZK, CRPP, CEA, TEKES and NTUA) has accumulated a wealth of knowledge in the design of high power microwave sources used to heat plasma. This know-how is being transferred to industry via Thales Electron Devices for use in a number of fusion experiments including ITER. However the knowledge is proving invaluable in the application of high power microwaves in other areas - in particular in industrial processing. With materials of low thermal conductivity, such as powders, glass, polymers or composites, heating with microwaves could lead to considerable reduction in processing time and energy consumption.
Plasma physics helps make better chips
Two computer codes developed by the IPP in Garching, Germany to analyse the damage caused by fast plasma ions impinging on the walls of the plasma vacuum vessel are now enjoying world-wide application. The TRIM and TRIDYN programmes are used by semiconductor manufacturers and developers to predict and control ion implantation during doping of semiconductor chips. This process allows specific tailoring of the semiconductor’s electronic properties.
Plasma diagnostics improve microelectronics process
Scientific Systems Ltd is a successful spin-off company that emerged from the Irish Fusion Association Euratom DCU research in 1998. Scientific Systems makes high-end plasma diagnostics systems which are used world-wide by plasma research laboratories and plasma-based manufacturing industries including the semiconductor and thin-film coating sectors.
Plasma motors in space
Diagnostics developed for studying edge physics in the RFX experiment in Padua, Italy are being applied to the study of turbulence experienced in a prototype magneto-plasma dynamic thruster for use in satellites. The development is being undertaken at Centrospazio in Pisa, Italy to produce thrusters for long range space missions and will help to understand and to correct instabilities in the thruster performance in certain operational conditions.
Super Conducting strands for magnets
Europa Metalli has manufactured NbTi multi-filament strands since 1977 working in close collaboration with the Applied Superconductivity Laboratory at ENEA in Frascati, Italy. Initially used in the European Test Facility SULTAN based at CRPP in Viligen, Switzerland, the company has subsequently supplied NbTi strands for use in many international particle accelerator projects. They also produce strands for use in MRI systems. Development continues with Nb3Sn materials that will be used in ITER coils and in high frequency Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) imaging systems for biological investigations.
Fusion R&D helps high tech weaving
New carbon materials have real stopping power
Dunlop Aviation designs and manufactures aircraft wheels, braking systems and ice protection systems for aircraft of all types. The company has provided large amounts of carbon-carbon (C-C) composite tiles to fusion experiments such as JET and has participated in a European funded programme to develop C-C composites with improved thermal properties for use in the next generation of fusion devices. Success in this field producing low-density, plasma-facing components that can transfer large heat fluxes whilst retaining strength at high temperature has broadened the company’s product portfolio beyond its core aerospace market. These include non-aviation friction applications such as train brakes, brakes and clutches for Formula 1 racing cars, high temperature furnace furniture, furnace heating elements and heat sinks for satellite electronics systems.