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Decoding the Visual Puzzle

This week we revisit an image that sparked discussion three weeks ago. Some of the feedback pointed to a tungsten fiber-reinforced composite material, and they were partially correct. Tungsten fibers are indeed present, but they have not yet been transformed into a dense, three-dimensional composite. What you see in this picture is the result of an initial experiment to explore a potentially more cost-effective alternative for applying a ceramic interface to the tungsten fibers, which is expected to be crucial for the composite’s performance under extreme conditions such as in a nuclear fusion reactor. Upscaling projects are usually associated with such efforts and are essential for successful industrialization.

The tested method involves the electrophoretic deposition (EPD) of yttria nanoparticles onto the tungsten fibers. These fibers are subsequently embedded in tungsten, which is deposited via chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The structure shown here does not have a uniform yttria coating and was therefore not used for any publications. However, it was possible to improve the homogeneity by refining the process parameters. More details are presented in a paper by Mao et al, accessible via this link.

Scanning electron microscope (SEM) of …? , image taken by Alexander Lau, FZJ.
Scanning electron microscope (SEM) of tungsten fibers, coated with yttria via EPD (electrophoretic deposition) techniques, further coated with a CVD-W (tungsten chemical vapor deposition) layer. Image taken by Alexander Lau, FZJ.
Alexander Lau, Doctoral researcher IEK, Materials and Components, Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung, Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH, picture courtesy of Alexander Lau.
Alexander Lau, Doctoral researcher IEK, Materials and Components, Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung, Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH. Picture courtesy of Alexander Lau.

“In science, we often celebrate the final breakthroughs, the practical solutions that make a difference. However, the journey to these discoveries, filled with trial and error, is equally important. Why? Because each mistake and setback is a chance to learn. They prompt questions like, “What worked? What didn’t? What challenges do we face with certain methods?” This process of learning from what went wrong is crucial, not just in general science, but specifically in fusion research too. We must allow room for errors and provide the time needed to learn from them, understanding that each step, whether forward or backward, is a part of the journey towards progress.”

– Alexander Lau

Find Alexander Lau on LinkedIn and Twitter: @LauAlexander164.

Join us in this exciting journey as we uncover the intricacies and innovations of nuclear fusion. Share your thoughts in the comment section below, engage in the discussion, and be a part of shaping our energy future!

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