WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., July 27 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve made a discovery that could bring nuclear fusion reactors and the possibility of clean, almost limitless power one step closer.
Scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., have made discoveries critical to understanding reactions between hot plasma inside a fusion reactor and surfaces facing the plasma, a university release said Tuesday.
Their aim is to eventually create coatings capable of withstanding the extreme conditions where the lining comes into contact with the extreme heat of the plasma, the release said.
Researchers are using nanotechnology to modify tiny features in the coating in an effort to create new “plasma-facing” materials tolerant to radiation damage, Jean Paul Allain, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue, said.
A major challenge in finding the right coatings to line fusion reactors is that materials change due to extreme conditions inside, where temperatures can reach millions of degrees.
A fusion power plant would produce 10 times more energy than a conventional nuclear fission reactor, and because its fuel, deuterium, is contained in seawater, a fusion reactor’s fuel supply would be virtually inexhaustible, researchers say.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.