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Research on steel for thermonuclear reactors

Photo of a nuclear power plant

photo freepik/com, author: vecstock

The National Science Centre has published the results of the SONATINA 7 competition. Its winners include a researcher from the Warsaw University of Technology.

Global demand for steel has been growing all the time, so finding a safe clean source has become a priority. Nuclear fusion may be a potential solution.

– Current research connected with thermonuclear synthesis concentrates on developing structural materials for the first wall of future thermonuclear reactors. Reduced activation ferritic martensitic (RAFM) steels may be a solution – says Barbara Wieluńska-Kuś, PhD, from the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering. – They have good maintenance properties in the temperature range of 350-550°C. However, in a future thermonuclear reactor, RAFM steels will have to withstand temperatures above 550°C – she adds.

The aim of the project which was co-funded within the SONATINA 7 competition of the National Science Centre is optimisation of thermal and mechanical machining of RAFM steel so that it can be used in a wider temperature range.

At the first stage, physical simulations of various types of heat and mechanical machining will be conducted in order to choose the most promising one. What is planned next are detailed studies of the microstructure with electron microscopy, as well as studies of mechanical properties. They will explain changes in microstructure and their impact on mechanical properties.

– In the future thermonuclear reactor, hydrogen isotopes will engage in a nuclear reaction, thereby producing huge amounts of energy, which will be transformed into electricity. Hydrogen is thus the reaction fuel and should not be wasted in the wall – stresses Barbara Wieluńska-Kuś, PhD. – In materials used in a thermonuclear reactor, this hydrogen retention should be small. Therefore it is important to study RAFM steel after various heat and mechanical machining also in terms of hydrogen retention – she adds.

The aim of the SONATINA competition is to support careers of young researchers. In this edition, 185 applications were submitted and 38 received funding of the total amount of over PLN 32 million.