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What can mechanicians do in fusion research?

More than fifty years ago, people realized that we can use fusion for energy, but the problem remains where and how to keep a plasma of 100 million degrees centigrade.

For TOKAMAK, one of the approaches to use the fusion power, now comes the news: "On 21 November, Ministers from the seven ITER Parties came together to sign the agreement to establish the international Organization that will implement ITER."

Around 10 billion EURO will spent on this international project. The most amazing thing is that scientists and engineerers from different countries (7 parties, more specifically) can work together to sovle one of the most urgent problems of mankind.

Material issues are much important as long as the engineering are concerned, in fusion research. How these materials behave under not only high temperature (i.e. mismatch between different stuctures/parts), but also the irradiation effects of materials (about one or two magnitude from the one of fission reactor).

Then, what can mechanicians do in fusion research?

Although the experiences in the research in fission reactor can help us design the fusion reactor. The databases of materials are completing, while still problems are rising. New facilities, such as IFMIF (International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility), will be built to study material behaviors under high-level irradiation. How can we speed-up the material designs instead of running experiments in all ranges? A lot of theoretical works need to be done in the coming decades.

Some links

PS: Althogh I have registered and read iMechanica for a long period, this is my first post. I do not know if this consists with the purpose of iMechanica. If we consider applied mechanics as the bridge between sciense and engineering, mechanicians can really have a lot of things to do in this field.


Zhigang Suo's picture

This looks like an excellent beginning of a series posts on energy. Energy has been on many people's lips, and possibly on some people's minds, but has not translated into exciting research problems in mechanics and materials. If I am wrong on this, please correct me and provide pointers to specifics.

I look forward to reading your follow-up posts, and learn about specific challenges that we mechanicians may possibly make a useful contribution. It might also help if you point out a few recent research papers in the area.

I thought your readers would be interested in looking at these energy technologies:

Aneutronic Fusion: Here I am not talking about the big science ITER project taking thirty years, but the several small alternative plasma fusion efforts.

There are three companies pursuing hydrogen-boron plasma toroid fusion, Paul Koloc, Prometheus II, Eric Lerner, Focus Fusion and Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems

Vincent Page (a technology officer at GE!!) gave a presentation at the 05 6th symposium on current trends in international fusion research , which high lights the need to fully fund three different approaches to P-B11 fusion He quotes costs and time to development of P-B11 Fusion as tens of million $, and years verses the many decades and ten Billion plus $ projected for ITER and other "Big" science efforts.    Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
E-mail: shengar at

Should Google go nuclear
If anyone could make the Fusor work it probably would be Google.Also:The Navy Heats up "Cold Fusion" with Use of CR-39 Detectors in LENR Experiment:

Extraordinary Evidence - "Cold Fusion"

The field of low energy nuclear reactions, historically known as cold fusion, has never had simple physical evidence of the claimed nuclear processes to physically place in the hands of doubters.

Until now.

Scientists at the U.S. Navy’s San Diego SPAWAR Systems Center have produced something unique in the 17-year history of the scientific drama historically known as cold fusion: simple, portable, highly repeatable, unambiguous, and permanent physical evidence of nuclear events using detectors that have a long track record of reliability and acceptance among nuclear physicists.

Using a unique experimental method called co-deposition, combined with the application of external electric and magnetic fields, and recording the results with standard nuclear-industry detectors, researchers have produced what may be the most convincing evidence yet in the pursuit of proof of low energy nuclear reactions.

New Energy Times, issue #19
"Extraordinary Evidence"


Weixu Zhang's picture

maybe there will be an " Evolving material structures of large feature sizes" one day, corresponding to " Evolving material structures of small feature sizes" Since the effect of high-level irradiation is so severe .

Hi Gan,

now the problem is " where shall we begin?"

do you have any idea?

Zhigang Suo's picture

Thank you very much for mentioning my review article [Evolving materials structures of small feature sizes, Published in Research Trends in Solid Mechanics, a volume coordinated by G.J. Dvorak on behalf of The U.S. National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. Also printed in Int. J. Solids Structures, 37, 359-366 (2000)]. Your question is interesting. I wish I knew something about these processes induced by high-level irradiation, and their significance to energy devices.

It always takes me a lot of time to learn the background of a problem. Like you, I'd love to hear from energy experts about what they see as significant problems.

I've been to several seminars. So far the challenging problems sound more economical and sociological than technical. Not these aspects are boring, but people like me are less inclined to get involved. I have been disappointed by all these high-level talks so far, but have kept my mind open. Perhaps we are looking at an emerging opportunity for mechanicians.

Pradeep Sharma's picture

Zhigang, no doubt there are are many energy related mechanics problems.....I am in particular aware of one....quantum dots are often touted as the current/next generation solar energy devices. As is well known, mechanics plays a strong role in quantum dots both in fabrication and in operation (through electronic structure coupling).

Zhigang Suo's picture

Here is the link to the article.

FEA is first developed in the aircraft engineering; Mechanics of film is developed for the increasing demond in electronic industry. For another important field in Engery, it would probably need a new tool/theory to describe the properties of  materials. I can not tell any exact direction, but the irradiation effects of materials would be one of the most important issues.

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