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The University of Manchester at Harwell


We're researching new materials and manufacturing techniques for nuclear fusion applications.

Nuclear fusion is the process by which two atoms fuse together, liberating huge amounts of energy. This is the same reaction that occurs in the sun, so to recreate this on earth is quite a challenge. The most promising concept for a fusion reactor is a doughnut shaped device referred to as a tokamak which can be used to magnetically confine a plasma (ionised gas) where the fusion reaction takes place, with temperatures at the core of the plasma reaching 150 000 000 K. The materials at the wall of a tokamak will be subject to extreme heat and neutron loads, as well as being exposed to the plasma. This poses huge challenges for both materials and engineering.


Principal Investigator

PhD student

  • Olivia Mclatchie

Fusion research at UoMaH will look at how new materials and components will respond to fusion relevant damage and if they will be suitable for future fusion reactors.  This will involve the use of national lab facilities, also with the UK Atomic Energy Authority, including working on innovative new in situ experiments at Harwell, and contributing towards the UKAEA ‘STEP’ (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) programme.

Our first project focuses on analysing fusion relevant damage on P91 steel which is currently used as a proxy for reduced activation ferritic martensitic (RAFM) steels such as EUROFER 97 in research into nuclear fusion applications. Our project will use advanced experimental techniques to investigate how electron welded P91 responds to fusion reactor conditions. We will use ion irradiation techniques to simulate neutron damage in P91, and analyse the effect on microstructure. We will characterise the materials using X-ray/neutron diffraction techniques, with the possible addition of computed tomography (CT), using in situ mechanical testing experiments to investigate the mechanical behaviours of the welds.