Commercial fusion power plants will require strong magnetic fields that can only be achieved using state-of-the-art high temperature superconductors in the form of REBa2Cu3O7-8-Coated conductors.
In operation in a fusion machine, the magnet windings will be exposed to fast neutrons that are known to adversely affect the superconducting properties of REBa2Cu3O7-8 compounds. Little, however, is known about how these materials will perform when they are irradiated at cryogenic temperatures.
In this paper published in MRS Bulletin, Professor Chris Grovenor, Professor Susie Speller and their colleagues used a bespoke in situ test rig to show that helium ion irradiation produces a similar degradation in properties regardless of temperature, but that room-temperature annealing leads to substantial recovery in the properties of cold-irradiated samples.
The authors report the first attempt at measuring the superconducting properties while the ion beam is incident on the sample, showing that the current the superconductor can sustain is reduced by a factor of three when the beam is on.