Navigation Links
University of Tennessee, ORNL lead national team to study nuclear fusion reactors
Date:9/11/2012

Power from nuclear fusion reactors has the promise to be safe, sustainable and limitless. But science has not been able to bring fusion energy to the commercial energy market. This is partly because the operating limits of the reactor materials are not known.

A team of researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in collaboration with seven other institutions, is trying to change that.

Led by Brian Wirth, UT-ORNL Governor's Chair for Computational Nuclear Engineering, the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) project will receive $2.3 million from the Department of Energy for the first year with plans for a total of $11.5 million over five years. ORNL and UT will receive $850,000 for the first year with plans for a total of $4.1 million over five years.

Nuclear fusion promises an almost limitless supply of clean and safe energy. Unlike the nuclear fission reactors used today, it doesn't come with the challenge of managing used nuclear fuel containing very long-lived radioactivity. This is because the process to create the energy is different. In nuclear fission, an atom is split into two smaller atoms which remain radioactive for hundreds to many thousands of years. In fusion, two or more smaller atoms are fused into a larger atom that is not radioactive.

"However, the fusion process currently pursued unleashes a very high-energy neutron that is believed to produce more damage to reactor materials than in fission," Wirth said. "Now is the right time to examine this impact of fusion reactions on materials as we determine whether we can really make fusion work as a practical energy source."

The researchers will examine how the surfaces of materials which comprise the reactor respond when being bombarded by energetic neutrons and ions. Using high-performance computers such as ORNL's Jaguar and UT's Kraken, the researchers will try to accurately predict materials' performance and evaluate materials systems and component design for the fusion reactor environment. The team will then be positioned to use their computational tools to evaluate new materials and component designs to enable fusion energy.

"A fusion reactor works by introducing plasma a hot, electrically charged gas that serves as the reactor fuel into a vacuum vessel," Wirth said. "The plasma is then confined using electric and magnetic fields into a central, vacuum region."

The problem, he said, is that ions from the plasma escape and bombard the material surfaces, in addition to the high-energy neutrons. This combination causes significant damage and changes the properties of the reactor materials.

"It's likely materials do not exist today that could be used to build a reactor that would contain the plasma," Wirth said.

The material property changes are driven by many processes that occur in less than a nanosecond. Yet, it is the cumulative interaction of such processes over much longer times that determine the precise value of these changes. Wirth and his team aim to develop models which stretch this interaction over the period of many decades to evaluate their long-term effects.

"We are trying to identify and model numerous microscale defect and impurity interaction processes that occur over rapid time scales which can span less than a nanosecond," Wirth said. "And then we are trying to integrate these into a model that can predict the material response over the years and decades for which a plasma reactor needs to operate."

Wirth notes that making these goals more challenging is the fact that no current experimental facilities exist that accurately represent the environment these materials are expected to face.

"Our research will address one critically important aspect toward getting to fusion energy," Wirth said. "I'm optimistic about the potential for fusion energy, but realistic in understanding how difficult it will be to realize."


'/>"/>
Contact: Whitney Heins
wheins@utk.edu
865-974-5460
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Rockefeller Universitys Pearl Meister Greengard Prize to be awarded to RNA researcher Joan Steitz
2. Yale Universitys Joan Steitz awarded 2012 Vanderbilt Prize
3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign awarded 5-year grant from NASA
4. University of Alberta medical scientists first in the world to look at structure of vital molecule
5. University spin-out company shares in £7.9 million marine energy funding boost
6. Rice University researchers optimize photoluminescent probes to study DNA and more
7. University of Tennessee Space Institute researchers make clinical trials a virtual reality
8. University of Leicester takes delivery of unique eye imaging equipment
9. University of Tennessee Team receives NSF support to study toxic water in China
10. George Washington University Computational Biology Director solves 200-year-old oceanic mystery
11. University of Minnesota engineering researchers discover new non-invasive method for diagnosing epilepsy
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/16/2016)... , May 16, 2016   EyeLock LLC ... today announced the opening of an IoT Center of ... strengthen and expand the development of embedded iris biometric ... unprecedented level of convenience and security with unmatched biometric ... one,s identity aside from DNA. EyeLock,s platform uses video ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... Lithuania , May 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, ... released the MegaMatcher Automated Biometric Identification System ... of large-scale multi-biometric projects. MegaMatcher ABIS can process ... accuracy using any combination of fingerprint, face or ... MegaMatcher SDK and MegaMatcher Accelerator ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... India and LONDON ... Infosys Finacle, part of EdgeVerve Systems, a product ... and Onegini today announced a partnership to integrate ... solutions.      (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151104/283829LOGO ... to provide their customers enhanced security to access ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016  The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is pleased to announce ... cures for prostate cancer. Members of the Class of 2016 were selected from ... Read More About the Class of 2016 PCF Young Investigators ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome , a ... $1 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank ... automation and to advance its drug development efforts, as ... facility. "SVB has been an incredible strategic ... services a traditional bank would provide," said Dr. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample tracking software company, today announced that ... joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. , “I am thrilled that ... of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity as a scientific integrator, Hays brings ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ... clinical trials of its complement C3 inhibitor, APL-2. ... multiple ascending dose studies designed to assess the ... subcutaneous injection in healthy adult volunteers. ... as a single dose (ranging from 45 to ...
Breaking Biology Technology: