Tokamak Energy awarded DOE grant to test fusion power plant materials
Published on 26 January 2023
Tokamak Energy Inc has been awarded funding by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to test speciality steel materials in extreme fusion conditions at the leading Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
The award through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) programme will help inform the design of future power plants, including Milton Park based Tokamak Energy’s pilot plant ST-E1.
One of the most technically challenging components in a commercial tokamak, which utilises the hydrogen fuel combination, deuterium-tritium, is the ‘breeder blanket’.
Deuterium is abundant in sea water, but tritium is not available naturally. Fusion energy power plants will therefore be designed to produce tritium using a breeder blanket to be self-sufficient when operating.
A breeder blanket will be a complex assembly. Identifying the optimal structural material is a major challenge since it must be resilient to high temperatures, while remaining robust when exposed to high-energy neutrons and chemical coolants.
Jim Pickles, Tokamak Energy’s Head of Materials, said: “Fusion promises to be a transformative global source of limitless, clean energy. It is crucial that we test and develop the most resilient and suitable materials for the design of future power plants as early as possible.
“This new research using the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s world-class facilities will push our understanding forward as to the likely lifetime of materials under relevant operating conditions, as we work towards demonstrating grid-ready fusion power in the early 2030s.”
ORNL’s Bruce Pint added: “We are excited to be using our expertise to help industry to commercialize fusion energy.”
The new research set to be carried out at ORNL, Tennessee, will impact the expected preference in the fusion community for liquid lithium blankets.
The INFUSE programme was established in 2019 to accelerate fusion energy development through public-private research partnerships. For more information visit https://infuse.ornl.gov/