In-situ radiation damage in high temperature superconducting magnet materials for fusion reactors

Nuclear fusion reactors require high magnetic fields to confine the intensely hot plasma in which the deuterium/tritium reaction takes place.  The next generation of reactors rely on state-of-the-art high temperature superconductors (HTS) to achieve very high magnetic fields, the superconductor of choice being (RE)Ba2Cu3O7 (RE = rare earth element).  In operation in a fusion device, the HTS magnet windings will be exposed to high energy neutrons which cause severe degradation of the properties and eventually total loss of superconductivity long before any structural damage can be observed with atomic resolution electron microscopy.  As a safe proxy for neutron damage, we have pioneered in-situ measurements on the effect of ion beam irradiation (with protons, He+, O2+) on the superconducting performance of REBCO tapes, and are now working on state of the art, in-situ experiments using both fission and fusion-spectrum neutrons.  The student will work closely with our colleagues in the UK Atomic Energy Authority and Birmingham University, and become an expert in the measurement of superconducting properties, and will join in with experiments on the beamlines at the Diamond Light Source to explore the damage mechanisms specific to each kind of irradiation that control the properties of these complex materials.

In situ cryogenic irradiation experimental setup

In situ cryogenic irradiation experimental setup

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