Having spent the last year working towards an MSc in Fusion Energy at the University of York I am now a PhD student supervised by Dr Lee Margetts and Dr Matthew Roy of the University of Manchester and Dr Llion Evans of CCFE.
The inside of a fusion reactor is a demanding environment and the design of plasma facing components able to reliably withstand heat fluxes of up to 20MWm-2 pushes the limits of engineering and materials science. Furthermore, whilst the centre of the magnetically confined plasma may reach temperatures of around 100,000,000˚C, the cryopumps used to maintain the in-vessel vacuum are situated just a few metres away and operate at temperatures as low as -269˚C, meaning that are further material stresses due to the thermal gradient to consider.
I will be working with a high performance finite element analysis code developed in-house at Manchester to aid the design of 3D printed reactor components. 3D printing or ‘additive manufacturing’ is one proposed method for reducing the manufacturing costs associated with geometrically complex fusion reactor components. One way in which additive manufacturing may be employed is in the addition of small scale structures to the surfaces of existing components in order to increase their thermal performance.
My research will include efforts to extend this analysis code, in order to increase understanding of changes in structural integrity over a range of different time and length scales. This will involve running simulations for ‘digital twins’ of real fusion reactor components that can only be performed on supercomputers.