The Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) program is the national basic-research effort in advance plasma science, fusion science, and fusion technology—the knowledge base needed for an economically and environmentally attractive fusion energy source.
As a major contributor to this effort, Sandia’s Fusion Technology Program studies the interactions of plasmas and materials, the behavior of materials exposed to high heat fluxes, and the interfaces of plasmas and fusion reactor walls. Extensive analyses of prototypes are required before components can be qualified for operation in fusion machines. The process involves selecting, specifying, and developing materials for components exposed to high heat and particle fluxes. Materials samples and prototype components are tested in Sandia’s Plasma Materials Test Facility, which uses high-power electron beams to generate high heat fluxes that simulate fusion reactor environments. Sandia uses our unique test facilities and analysis capabilities to determine the heat-flux capability, particle pumping and retention characteristics, erosion rates, and design features of plasma-facing components in a fusion device.
Sandia’s applied research will help enable the U.S. to build a portion of the first wall for ITER, a large-scale scientific experiment intended to prove the viability of fusion as an energy source. Other Sandia departments in Albuquerque and in Livermore perform research on plasma-surface interactions using facilities such as small plasma chambers and accelerator-based probes that are funded primarily through other programs.
Because of the increased focus in the U.S. with regard to fusion energy sciences, the issues of plasma-material interactions will be of greater importance in the future. Sandia is acting as a central resource for using alternative concepts to resolve problems with plasma-facing components.