Abstract

The development of nuclear fusion reactors is presently considered to be the only possible answer to the world's increasing demand for energy, while respecting the environment. Nuclear fusion devices may be broadly divided into two main groups with distinctively different characteristics: magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) and inertial confinement fusion (ICF) reactors. Although the two nuclear fusion technologies show similarities in energy levels (as high as 3 J/cm2) and type of environment (high temperature plasmas) to be contained, the materials of choice for the protective shields (first wall in the ICF and deflectors in the MCF) differ significantly. In ICF reactors, multiple laser beams are used to ignite the fuel in single pulses. This process exposes the first wall to microshrapnel, unconverted light, x-rays, and neutrons. B4C is a low Z material that offers high depth x-ray absorption to minimize surface heating, is not activated by neutrons (will not become radioactive), and offers high hardness and vapour temperature. The long term operation envisioned within MCF reactors, where a continuous nuclear fusion of the fuel is sustained within the confinement of a magnetic field, favours the use of high Z materials, such as W, to protect the plasma exposed deflectors. The reason is a lower erosion rate and a shorter ionization distance in the plasma, which favours the redeposition of the sputtered atoms, both resulting in a lower contamination of the plasma. The production of the first wall and the deflector shields using solid B,C and W materials respectively, is obviously unthinkable. However, ProTeC has developed high density coatings for both ICF and MCF nuclear fusion reactors. W coatings with less then 2% porosity have been produced for both, the Tokamac MCF reactor and its Toroid Fueler. The toroid fueler is a plasma generating device designed to accelerate particles and inject them into the centre of the operating fusion reactor in order to refuel. For the application in an ICF reactor, B4C coatings exhibiting porosity levels below 3% with a hardness above 2500 HV have been deposited directly onto Al substrate. Properties such as outgassing, resistance to erosion and shrapnel, and the influence of x-rays have been studied and showed exceptional results.

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