Tokamak Energy’s cutting-edge magnet technology will be exposed to extreme conditions to test lifetime fusion power plant performance in a United States national laboratory.
Creating clean, sustainable fusion energy requires strong magnetic fields to confine and control hydrogen fuel, which becomes a plasma several times hotter than the Sun inside a tokamak.
Although most radiation from high-energy plasma neutrons will be absorbed by the tokamak’s shielding, the magnets must be able to withstand secondary gamma rays to maintain efficient power plant operations. Gamma rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to X-rays.
Tokamak Energy built and commissioned its specialist gamma radiation cryostat system – a vacuum device to provide thermal insulation for the magnets – at its Oxfordshire headquarters as part of its mission to deliver fusion power in the 2030s.
The bespoke test system will now be disassembled, shipped, and rebuilt at the Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF) based at the Department of Energy’s Sandia Laboratories, Albuquerque.
It is one of the few places in the world capable of housing the system while exposing the company’s breakthrough high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets to a power plant representative dose rates – sufficient in intensity and energy – of gamma radiation.
Dr Rod Bateman, HTS Magnet Development Manager at Tokamak Energy, said: “Our pioneering magnet technology must withstand extreme conditions to keep fusion power plants running in the future. The specialist Sandia Laboratory is ideally configured to test magnet durability and performance when exposed to gamma radiation. It is essential to push the boundaries now as we scale up our operations towards commercial fusion.”
Research and analysis on sets of individual magnets will run for six months at the New Mexico facility, which is so powerful it can do a 60-year lifetime test in just two weeks.
Don Hanson, GIF Facility Supervisor at Sandia National Laboratory, said: “The GIF is a unique facility that can provide high doses of gamma radiation to large test objects. We look forward to working with Tokamak Energy to advance fusion technologies.”
Tokamak Energy has been a pioneer in recognising the opportunity to apply and develop HTS technology for fusion energy. In February, the company completed building a world-first set of magnet coils using 38 kilometres of HTS tape, which carries currents with zero electrical resistance and requires five times less cooling power than traditional materials.
Strong magnetic fields are generated by passing large electrical currents through arrays of electromagnet coils that will surround the plasma in future power plants. For more information visit www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/magnets