Many congratulations to Professor Susie Speller, who has been awarded a five year £2.4M Fellowship (under the new EPSRC Open Plus scheme) to lead research on high temperature superconductors for fusion technologies and new initiatives aimed at widening participation in STEM.
Developing commercial fusion power plants is a key part of the UK Government's strategy for achieving its net zero carbon targets by 2050, and high temperature superconductors are an essential enabling technology for the next generation of fusion reactors that will be much cheaper and more compact.
As Professor Speller says:
"The only way to generate the enormous magnetic fields that are required to confine a fusion plasma, without guzzling more electricity than the reactor produces, is by deploying high temperature superconductors - special materials that conduct electricity without any electrical resistance.
The problem is that these superconductors are incredibly complex ceramic materials that are very sensitive to damage, and we urgently need to find out how long they will survive in the extremely harsh environment of a fusion reactor where they will be continually bombarded with high energy neutrons."
The all-female research team of Dr Rebecca Nicholls (co-investigator), Dr Tayebeh Mousavi and Dr Clara Barker, working in collaboration with Tokamak Energy, Diamond Light Source, UKAEA, Surry Ion Beam Centre and TU Wien, will use a unique combination of advanced materials characterisation and computational modelling techniques to understand irradiation damage and recovery mechanisms in these complex functional ceramics under the most realistic conditions possible.
Project partner, Dr Sofia Diaz-Moreno from Diamond Light Source says:
"I am really looking forward to working with Professor Susie Speller and the Oxford team on this exciting new project which relies on our state-of-the-art spectroscopy techniques at Diamond Light Source to shed light on the irradiation-induced defects that are responsible for the degradation of superconducting performance."