Siemens and F4E have announced that they are collaborating on a powerful heating system for ITER, the nuclear fusion research project.
F4E, which manages the European Union’s contribution to ITER, will work with Siemens to design, manufacture and test three high-voltage units that will contain the power supplies of the high-energy beams used to heat up the plasma.
The technology works by heating plasma to 100 million °C so hydrogen atoms fuse together, releasing energy.
The heating is achieved with a technique known as neutral beam injection (NBI) ,which functions by injecting a high-energy beam of neutral atoms, typically a hydrogen isotope such as deuterium, into the core of the plasma.
Fusion is capable of producing energy without contributing to global warming or the dangers associated with fission such as the production of hazardous waste.
One of the new heating units will be manufactured for a research facility operating in Italy, whose aim is to help scientists test the NBI components before they go into production mode for ITER.
The other two units will be manufactured as part of ITER’s NBI system, which is designed to deliver 33MW of power.
The works are expected to last seven years at an estimated cost of €18m (£13m).
Siemens project manager Michael Krohn said: “Our company is proud to be part of this international research project and to play an active role in the construction of units for the ITER neutral beam injectors. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration”.
Although practical application of the technology is still some way off, researchers recently found that the cost of producing energy in fusion reactors has now become cheap enough to be commercially viable.
While ITER requires the plasma to be superheated, the facility’s magnets, thermal shields and cryopumps need to be cooled to extremely low temperatures down to -269°C.
Last year the French industrial gas manufacturer Air Liquide signed a contract to build a giant cryoplant, the largest in the world, to achieve the cooling.