Success Stories

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Self Passivating smart alloys

Tungsten is the material typically used as the cover layer of the inside of a fusion reactor. A failure of the reactor cooling system could lead to high temperatures in this layer, which in combination with an air ingress could leading to the formation of WO3 (Tungsten Tri-oxide) gas. As the Tungsten has been activated by neutron absorption, the gas formed is also radioactive – meaning that any leakage would be dangerous to the surrounding environment. One of the core competencies of Forschungszentrum Jülich is the development and characterization of smart self-passivating alloys that prevent the generation of WO3 in case of such accidents. This know-how is now planned to be used for the production of other smart alloys that could be suitable to enhance the durability of receivers of solar-thermic power plants.

Fusion to space

Ptolemy is an instrument on board the Philae lander of Rosetta. It consists of a miniature gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer that is designed to determine the composition of the comet. In order to do this, the ice of the comet must be converted into gas and passed through the instruments. The connecting pipework and fittings was designed and manufactured using techniques developed as part of the fusion energy programme. The knowledge and techniques developed in the ‘Special Techniques’ group at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy working on fusion allowed the many different materials to be connected via advanced brazing. Also, there is a very large variation in temperatures throughout the mission that need to be tolerated which utilizes the vast know-how from the fusion community.

Ion Beam Analysis for Hubble Space Telescope

IBA Datafurnace is a code used to analyse the outputs from thin film Ion Beam Analysis. This technique is often used within the fusion community to analyse the wall tiles from the inside of the tokamak to see what plasma deposits have built up. This was also subsequently used to investigate the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 from the Hubble Space Telescope after it was brought back to Earth in 2009. The analysis was able to show that a variety of different elements has built up on the outer casing of the camera due to impact from interstellar matter. It is very rare to have such an opportunity as it is not common for satellites to be returned to Earth after prolonged exposure to a space environment.