Type: Eurofusion Enabling Research project

Project duration: 2021 - 2023

Project manager: Dr. A.I. Popov ISSP, UL

Total funding: 596 KEUR

Project summary: 

Nuclear fusion generates energy for the sun and other stars, this is reaction in which hydrogen nuclei are merged. Imitating this process in a reactor would enable to produce so much energy that would satisfy the world’s energy needs forever. It would not cause hazardous environmental pollution and the fuel supply would be unlimited. The downside, however, is that the level of radiation in such a fusion reactor would be so high that currently known materials would not tolerate it. Thus, researchers still need to create suitable construction materials for the reactor.

The low-power experimental reactor based on fusion technology, ITER, is currently being built in France for scientific experiments. The reactor is expected to be completed by 2027, followed by a test period, after which it is possible to build the DEMO demonstration reactor that is currently in the design stage.

The current project is focused on the development of diamond windows and related dielectric materials for DEMO reactor. More precisely, the project aims to find out how the purity of diamond ceramics, various protective layers and other technological innovations affect the radiation resistance of such windows. We also want to know how and for how long the properties of the window persist under radiation.

The research partners in the three-year project are the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, the Institute of Solid State Physics, University of Latvia, and the Institute of Physics, University of Tartu, Estonia. Researchers in Karlsruhe make the diamond windows, their properties are analysed at the Laboratory of Physics of Ionic Crystals of the University of Tartu, and in Latvia, researchers model how the material would behave under actual working conditions. Very sensitive methods must be used for analysis of the windows, because the quantity of impurities may be very small, and the extent of changes occurring in diamond crystals is very small. The impact of the small changes on the reliability of the whole window, however, may be huge in the conditions of radiation. We need to determine the effect of the impurities and defects, and what exactly structural defects occur under radiation, and study whether these defects are persistent or recede under certain circumstances. The development of technology and materials required for building the DEMO reactor may take about twenty more years. According to EUROfusion plans, DEMO could start operation in approximately 2050. Then it will take a few more decades to get to an industrial reactor.

EUROfusion is the largest fusion research consortium in the world. This project was selected from among 72 proposals all over the Europe.