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Tungsten Crystals for Nuclear Fusion?

Tungsten, known for having the highest melting point among all metals, plays a pivotal role in advancing nuclear fusion technology. Its resilience to extreme temperatures, efficient thermal conduction, minimal neutron activation, and low interaction with fusion fuels, positions tungsten as the leading candidate for plasma-facing components (PFCs) in commercial nuclear fusion reactors. However, crafting tungsten elements poses significant challenges due to its extreme hardness, rendering conventional Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining processes both complex and costly. Nonetheless, the synthesis of tungsten from specific gaseous reactions presents a promising pathway for the creation of thermal shields. The image featured this week illustrates the crystalline formation of chemically deposited tungsten. Currently, this form of tungsten is being employed as one of the foundational matrix materials for the development of tungsten fiber-reinforced composites, integral structural parts, and as a durable protective layer for different applications.

Scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of the surface structure of chemically deposited tungsten crystals. Credits to Beatrix Göhts, FZJ
Gas 1 + Gas 2 -> Tungsten crystals + Gas 3
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.

“The tungsten crystals form tiny “mountain-like” shapes that can be varied in size and form to fit the surface they’re applied to, as well as to suit the precise methods used to make them. These tiny structures, too small to see without help, remind us that sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.”

– Alexander Lau

Find Alexander Lau on LinkedIn and X: @LauAlexander164.

 

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