Cirrus is excited to have been contracted by the United States Department of Energy to help solve a particularly difficult technical challenge.

The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject, which will be the world’s largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment. Due to extreme conditions inside the ITER reactor, thermal management is an ongoing problem. This is where the Department of Energy has recognised coatings designed by Cirrus Materials Science can help.

Nuclear fusion is a highly promising and attractive clean energy source, provided that the remaining technical hurdles to achievement of energy-positive, self-sustaining fusion reactions can be overcome. The supply of fusion fuel on earth is virtually unlimited, consisting of deuterium from water and lithium from rocks and is used to generate tritium. The realisation of commercially viable fusion power would solve the problem of securing a clean, global energy supply.

The tremendous heat flux puts severe constraints on the materials chosen to maintain the dimensional and structural integrity of the system. Plasma-facing components within the fusion reactor bear the brunt of the energy, experiencing unprecedented heat, particle, and neutron fluxes. Cirrus needs to significantly advance the materials design in order to achieve safe, reliable, economic, and environmentally-benign operation of fusion energy systems.

The experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor is being built in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, in Provence, southern France. The project is funded and run by seven member entities—the European Union, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

This represents a new revenue stream for Cirrus and is likely to also “seed” additional valuable IP.