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The University of Manchester at Harwell

Fusion

The focus of the fusion fellowship will be carrying out research on 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.

Team

Principal Investigator

PhD students

  • Olivia Mclatchie
  • Toluwanimi Ajayi
  • Nour Hammoud

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. Therefore 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 comes with huge materials and engineering challenges, which is where the research of this fellowship comes in. The research 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 UKAEA, including working on innovative new in situ experiments at Harwell, and contributing towards the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) program.

Currently we have 2 PhD projects looking at the performance of novel welds for fusion applications with the GREEN and Fusion CDTs.

Building stars on Earth - The potential of nuclear fusion

Nuclear fusion could, in theory, provide the world with abundant, zero-emissions, sustainable energy. Only, scientists have yet to harness the power of nuclear fusion - the process at work in the Sun and every other star in the universe. Nuclear fusion involves compressing, or fusing, light atomic nuclei to form heavier ones, releasing an immense amount of energy in the process. But to make that energy, we must find a way to safely recreate the conditions at the centre of a star here on Earth.

So how far are we from supplying the world's energy demand with the power of stars? Sir Steven Cowley, Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Dr Aneeqa Khan, Materials Engineers and Nuclear Fusion Research Fellow at The University of Manchester at Harwell, explain the possibilities of nuclear fusion and the obstacles we must solve for it to become a reality in a new podcast and video episode released in September 2021.