Posted on: 15th December 2015

#15 Steel construction

Inner and outer view of the Wendelstein 7-X plasma vessel. Image and caption credit: Wendelstein 7-X and fusion – At the cutting edge of technology, brochure by Max-Planck-Institute for Plasma Physics.

Inner and outer view of the Wendelstein 7-X plasma vessel. Image and caption credit: Wendelstein 7-X and fusion – At the cutting edge of technology, brochure by Max-Planck-Institute for Plasma Physics.

We look at industries that have benefited from being involved in building Wendelstein 7-X. The world’s largest fusion device of the stellarator type, Wendelstein 7-X, had a successful first plasma discharge on 10 December 2015. The device has an extremely sophisticated structure and had numerous industries involved in supplying parts and equipment that had to meet exacting requirements.

Wendelstein 7-X’s sophisticated design has earned many epithets from quirky to a doughnut with a twist. Building the device’s complex plasma vessel was a challenge in steel construction, and the task was completed by German manufacturer MAN Diesel & Turbo SE. The stainless steel vessel with an outer diameter of 12.8 metres and height of 2.5 metres needed to precisely match the symmetry of the magnetic field which confines the hot plasma. The plasma chamber consists of 200 rings, and each ring is composed of several 15 centimetre-wide steel strips, which are bent in order to achieve the required curved geometries. To meet the design specifications of Wendelstein 7-X’s design, Max Plank Institute for Plasma Physics with MAN Diesel & Turbo SE together used new technologies in steel construction and innovative approaches, such as 3D-spatial design, laser-assisted technology to verify vessel geometry, and sophisticated welding techniques. The new technologies and approaches have already been applied to other areas such as building chemical reactors.

The complexity and the multidisciplinary nature of fusion research produced number of spin-offs that have found applications in industry, other scientific disciplines, and technological advances. The areas that have benefited from fusion research span a variety of fields ranging from medicine and material science to computing and astrophysics.

EUROfusion has identified some of these spin-offs, looked at fusion research aspects that have the potential for short-term benefits, and prepared a non-exhaustive list of fusion spin-offs which demonstrate the short-term benefits of fusion research on the way to fusion electricity.