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  • Fuelling fusion | The magic cocktail of deuterium and tritium

    Nuclear fusion in stars is easy: it just happens, because the immense gravity of a star easily overcomes the resistance of nuclei to come together and fuse. [...]

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  • 360° image of the week | The cryoplant

    Cryogenics play a central role in the ITER Tokamak: the machine's superconducting magnets (10,000 tonnes in total), the vacuum pumps, thermal shields and so [...]

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  • Central solenoid assembly | First sequences underway

    What does it take to assemble the magnet at the heart of ITER? Heavy lifting, unerring accuracy, and a human touch. The central solenoid will be assembled from [...]

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  • Assembly | The eyes of ITER

    Supervisors ensure compliance and completion as machine and plant assembly forges ahead. In Greek mythology, Argus was considered an ideal guardian because his [...]

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  • Component repairs | Removing, displacing and disassembling

    A good repair job starts with a cleared workbench, the right tools on hand and a strong vise. This axiom, true for odd jobs in a home workshop, is also true for [...]

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Of Interest

See archived entries

Fusion draws on Japanese traditions

Assistant Professor Takumi Chikada's studies show that a layer of erbium oxide only tens of microns thick on a steel surface could reduce permeation of tritium by 100 000 times.© Rob-Keller from flickr.com (Click to view larger version...)
Assistant Professor Takumi Chikada's studies show that a layer of erbium oxide only tens of microns thick on a steel surface could reduce permeation of tritium by 100 000 times.© Rob-Keller from flickr.com
The Japanese people have a long history of creating ceramics of great beauty and elegance. Now they are putting their skills towards the search for materials for future fusion plants — in this case not crafting elegant forms, but elegant solutions: ceramics are nearly impervious to tritium.

In a colloquium delivered at JET last week, Assistant Professor Takumi Chikada from the University of Tokyo outlined promising progress in research into the ceramic coating, erbium oxide, which may prove to be a vital coating for use in tritium-carrying pipework. "Without solving this problem it will be impossible to operate a fusion reactor," he stated.

Because of its very small size, tritium tends to permeate through materials readily — an undesirable characteristic in a tritium processing plant, where tritium would be exposed to a large surface area as it passes through cooling, ducting and processing pipework.

Assistant Professor Chikada's results showed that a layer of erbium oxide only tens of microns thick on a steel surface could reduce permeation of tritium by 100 000 times.

Erbium oxide was originally chosen as an insulation coating because it has a high thermodynamic stability and is resistant to liquid lithium-lead — a proposed blanket material for fusion plants, which is corrosive to many materials.

Read more on the EFDA website.


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