Opening up the DIFFER facilities: successful international collaborations for future energy

Published on May 02, 2024

Part of DIFFER’s strategy is to open up our facilities to more users. Successful international collaborations are important to achieve this and to bring future energy a step closer. This spring University of Bristol’s second year PhD student Hannah Tipping visited DIFFER to do experiments using Magnum-PSI.

Hannah Tipping working on Magnum-PSI © DIFFER/James Hargreaves
Hannah Tipping working on Magnum-PSI © DIFFER/James Hargreaves

What is your PhD about?
My PhD is on the effect of plasma transients on front wall/breeder blanket components. Within the expected 30 year lifetime of a fusion reactor, it is predicted that plasma disruptions will be experienced at least 2500 times causing plasma-material interactions with the front wall. When this happens, a huge amount of thermal energy will be deposited onto the tungsten front wall and the structural Eurofer-97 steel below it. To analyse the potential effects of these events on Eurofer-97, Magnum PSI was used to replicate fusion operating conditions whilst the material was simultaneously targeted by a laser to induce similar effects to plasma transients (disruptions). It’s really important to investigate these transient effects now, so we can secure the future of fusion technology.

What did you use the Magnum-PSI facility for?
The aim of the experiment was to observe the microstructural changes that occur after these exposures and the minimum conditions required to significantly alter Eurofer-97’s properties. Previous work has demonstrated changes to the hardness and magnetic properties of the steel resulting from transient effects. Microstructural analysis will reveal the extent of the damage acquired during these experiments and Eurofer-97’s ability to withstand these thermal heat loads.

Once the experiments have been completed, what do the results tell us?
From these results, it is hoped that we can estimate how Eurofer-97 will react as a structural material within a fusion reactor, and whether the current conditions and mitigation strategies will be suitable for the success of the structural steel in the long term. By doing this, we can help ensure that fusion reactors will be ready for commercially viable operation as soon as possible and extend their operating lifetimes.

How do you look back on the week at DIFFER?
Being at DIFFER for the week and seeing Magnum-PSI in action was a privilege and I must give special thanks to the operating team for ensuring the success of the experiments. It would be an absolute pleasure to return to Eindhoven and continue these investigations in the future.

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