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The linear plasma device PSI-2 and its role in fusion materials research

The search for the ideal plasma-facing material for fusion reactors has been a constant challenge for the last decades. Several candidate materials have been considered, such as carbon, in all its forms, beryllium, and of course, tungsten. Tungsten has emerged as the preferred material for the inner walls of ITER and future reactors [1]. However, not all tungsten is created equal. The production method, whether by forging, rolling, additive manufacturing, powder metallurgy or other techniques, has a major influence on the final micro- and macrostructure of tungsten, playing a crucial role in the properties of the material. In addition, other options include using tungsten composites or tungsten alloys, which could improve the properties of the material, such as the fiber-reinforced tungsten presented in previous posts [1,2,3,4,5].

The million (or billion) dollar question is, how can we determine the best material among these options? Naturally, rigorous testing and qualification is essential. Since no current fusion reactor exposes materials to the same conditions as those that plasma-facing materials will face in ITER, these conditions need to be simulated.

This is the raison d’être of the linear plasma device PSI-2, which we would like to present in this week’s spotlight. PSI-2 provides crucial insights into the behavior and durability of materials under the severe conditions inside a fusion reactor by generating a plasma with a similar composition to that expected in a reactor, and simultaneously exposing materials to comparable thermal loads as those caused by instabilities such as edge-localized modes (ELMs). These efforts are essential in helping us find the ideal material – or materials – to make commercial fusion energy a reality.

Image of the linear plasma device PSI-2; credit Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
Dr. Mauricio Gago, Postdoctoral researcher at IEK-4, Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung, Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH, picture courtesy of Dr. Mauricio Gago.

“It is an honor to work with the linear plasma device PSI-2. This device simulates the severe conditions inside a fusion reactor, generating vital information about the behavior of materials under these extreme loads. This allows us to find the ideal materials to help us make commercial fusion energy a reality.”

– Dr. Mauricio Gago

[1] T. Hirai, F. Escourbiac, S. Carpentier-Chouchana, A. Fedosov, L. Ferrand, T. Jokinen, V. Komarov, A. Kukushkin, M. Merola, R. Mitteau, R.A. Pitts, W. Shu, M. Sugihara, B. Riccardi, S. Suzuki, R. Villari, – ITER tungsten divertor design development and qualification program, Fusion Engineering and Design 88 (2013) 1798–1801.

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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