Scientists from the United Kingdom and Finland have developed a mathematical method to integrate effects of irradiation on fusion materials. The new formula will help with constructing a virtual fusion reactor and should allow the refinement of designs long before the facilities start operating. NASA has shown interest in the idea.
A team of scientists from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), the University of Oxford, and their colleagues from Finland have worked out an equation that predicts how strains and stresses develop in fusion reactor components when they are irradiated with neutrons.
The picture on the right shows the distribution of elastic stress around radiation defects produced by an impact of a high energy fusion neutron.
Sergei Dudarev, Head of the Materials Modelling Group at CCFE explains that the equation helps solve a longstanding problem of nuclear engineering, namely the question: How to connect atom-scale radiation damage to reactor-scale engineering?
“Most remarkably, this is a result of a multinational effort and I am delighted to say that fusion research took the lead here,” Sergei states. The University of Helsinki delivered the advanced atomistic simulations of radiation damage, and mathematicians at CCFE and the Department of Materials of the University of Oxford figured out how to fit the results into one equation. “We will create better, more reliable and safer nuclear systems, because we will know about the weak elements in the structure even before the foundations are laid,” says Sergei.
The work waspublished in IAEA's journal Nuclear Fusion: A multi-scale model for stresses, strains and swelling of reactor components under irradiation. A week after the article was published, Sergei received an invitation to explain the theory at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).