Vacuum Tubes inside the ITER Facility
Shot of one of ITER's two 800-tonne vacuum vessel assembly tools. Photo courtesy of ITER. © Luca Zanier

Tungsten for Fusion

By David Goddard

Tungsten has the highest melting point of any pure metal, making it a promising possibility for use in fusion reactors of the future. However, like many aspects of fusion energy, tungsten still has some challenges associated with it that must be overcome.

ITER, the world’s largest research facility, is expected to be completed in 2025 and will help fusion researchers take the next step toward the long-sought goal of fusion power plants.

Until then, simulations hold the key in discovering critical aspects of fusion, including how the plasma it produces interacts with its surrounding environment. UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Computational Nuclear Engineering Brian Wirth (NE) wanted to answer the particular question of what happens when tungsten comes into contact with plasma, so he turned to high-performance computing simulations.

His team found that tungsten atoms mixing with plasma can cool and slow the reaction, making it important to ensure the magnetic fields in a fusion reactor are strong enough to keep those atoms contained, allowing the reaction to continue unimpeded.

The team made use of high-fidelity models to create an integrated simulation, where different data sets related to the physics of the fusion reaction could interact.

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