Daniel Wilkinson

University Of Oxford

I have been fascinated by physics and engineering for as long as I can remember. That’s why I decided to study physics at the LMU in Munich. I quickly realized that my strengths lie in applied physics and that I have a deep interest in materials science. I was able to deepen this for the first time in my bachelor’s thesis on the manufacturing of superconducting magnets, which I did as an external project in Prof Grant’s group at the Materials Department of the University of Oxford. In my master’s thesis, which I also did in Prof Grant’s group, I was able to develop further in this direction and came into contact with the challenges of fusion energy for the first time.

I worked on the manufacturing of materials for the inner wall of fusion reactors. These materials must withstand the extreme conditions present inside a fusion reactor, such as high-energy neutrons, ions and high thermal loads. Tungsten-based materials are, in many ways, the most promising candidates to withstand these challenges. However, tungsten is extremely difficult to join with other materials to make a cooled wall or divertor. To solve this problem, I used a process called FAST or SPS, which allows extremely high temperatures and pressures. With the right choice of materials and different component design strategies, I was able to combine tungsten with materials such as steel, HEA and copper.

After a year in industry, where I worked in process development for high-temperature electrolysers, I am now returning to the topic of my Master’s thesis as part of my PhD. Under the supervision of Prof Patrick Grant, Dr Enzo Liotti and Prof Dave Armstrong, I will build on my previous research and further develop the FAST process. I will also focus on testing the developed materials to assess how they perform in a fusion environment. My PhD is supported by the company Dr. Fritsch, which developed the FAST process. Through this collaboration, I hope to scale up the developed materials and accelerate the realization of fusion power plants!