Vacuum is space "devoid of matter.” Sounds poetic? Well this poetic condition is actually crucial for a successful fusion experiment. Before a fusion reaction is fuelled, the vessel of a tokamak or stellarator must be made free of any unwanted particles because these particles may interfere with the reaction causing the plasma to rapidly cool down.
There are many industrial suppliers who professionalise in large vacuum systems which have also been installed at Wendelstein 7-X, ASDEX Upgrade, JET or ITER. Fusion research practically relies on the engineering know how of those companies. “Thanks to their understanding, we can include correct licensing, manufacturing and operational aspects already in the design of the first fusion demonstrational fusion power plant, DEMO”, says Gianfranco Federici. But, ‘off-the-shelf’ won’t do since each fusion experiment will face its own challenges when it comes to handling the radioactive fuel, the sheer size or the conditions not yet seen on this earth. Petra Endroes, Business Line Manager for High Vacuum Systems at the company Leybold agrees: “We do not pull out those solutions from our drawer. So we are continuously exchanging with fusion researchers.”
Christian Day as well (Project Leader for Tritium Fuelling at DEMO) stresses the collaborational aspect of the partnership between science and industry. The DEMO design team is looking forward to increase the exchange with industry. The team highly welcomes an initiative from the European Union which will simplify the complex tender processes for publicly funded research projects. “We will soon have a new framework tool. It will speed up our negotiations with companies. We will then be able to contract partners within weeks and not, as usual, within months.”