Neutron Tomography of Tungsten Monoblock Could Help Roll Out Nuclear Fusion

Researchers use neutron tomography for imaging parts of a nuclear fusion reactor that would otherwise need to undergo extreme testing. Doing so could help eliminate excess energy expenditure in the testing stages of nuclear fusion, therefor reducing the cost and time it takes to validate every individual component.

A nuclear fusion reactor is supposed to eventually reach temperatures up to 10 times the heat of the sun’s core. In order for scientists to prepare equipment for such extreme conditions they need to assess each constituent part separately from the whole.

All forms of computerized tomography have their place but scientists working on nuclear fusion have grown particularly fond of nuclear tomography as an alternative to otherwise destructive test methods. In this particular experiment researchers utilized computerized neutron tomography to assess a coolant design named the Tungsten Monoblock.

‘The advantage of neutron imaging over X-ray imaging is that neutrons are significantly more penetrating through tungsten. ‘Thus, it is feasible to image samples containing larger volumes of tungsten. Neutron tomography also allows us to investigate the full monoblock non-destructively, removing the need to produce “region of interest” samples,’ the researcher say

Tungsten has gained some recognition lately as a particularly useful element for diffusing heat, such is the case in the latest Tungsten-Ceramic solar panels. Researchers utilized the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source’s neutron imaging instrument (IMAT) to capture images of the Tungsten Monoblock – which is basically just a system of pipes that carry coolant around the nuclear fusion reactor. Using this method they were able to avoid needlessly damaging the test sample from exposure to extreme temperature that would otherwise be the first step in assessing the Monoblocks durability.

“This work is a proof of concept that both these tomography methods can produce valuable data,’ says Dr Llion Evans of Swansea University College of Engineering

“In future, these complementary techniques can be used either for the research and development cycle of fusion component design or in quality assurance of manufacturing.”

The captured images will now be converted in to live computer simulations that can be tested, instead of the monoblock itself. Doing so will likely save research teams millions of dollars in maintenance and replacement costs.



Fusion power breakthrough as researchers reveal new way to test the safety of ‘limitless energy’ devices

image courtesy of Swansea University

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