Oxford Sigma awarded local grant to support fusion technology development

15 Nov 2022 | News

Oxford Sigma has been awarded a grant to support the development of fusion breeder blanket technology from the Innovation Support for Business (ISfB) programme, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP). The grant supports locally-based innovation that is making a global impact. The grant places Oxford Sigma’s breeder blanket technology development for the fusion industry another step closer to accelerating the commercialisation of this long-term zero carbon emission energy source.

Nuclear fusion reactors require tritium to be bred online during operation in order to supply the fuel for continuous operation. These devices, called breeder blankets, surround the fusion reactor core and experience extreme radiation damage, high operational temperatures, large magnetic fields, corrosive liquid metals coolant damage, and tritium leakage through the walls. Liquid lithium-based coolants have been proposed, such as pure liquid lithium and lead-lithium alloys, as the choice for breeder blankets. However, magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) phenomena occur in breeder blankets due to the motion of the electrically conducting liquid metal in the magnetic field (which is generated by a fusion reactor’s magnets). MHD interactions lead to the generation of induced electric currents and produce Lorentz forces that modify velocity profiles, leading to detrimental pressure drops compared to hydrodynamic conditions. These pressure drops can cause the liquid metal to become stagnant and overheat the breeder blanket, causing the device to fail. Failure of these devices will reduce the availability of the fusion reactor to generate electricity. This project will expand Oxford Sigma’s capability and capacity in advancing fusion component designs (which mitigate MHD effects in liquid metal breeders) to accelerate fusion energy to commercialisation.

Solving physics equations, such as neutron transport, on a breeder blanket module design by applying a meshing technique. (Image produced by Lauren Mentiply, Oxford Sigma).

Figure: Solving physics equations, such as neutron transport, on a breeder blanket module design by applying a meshing technique. (Image produced by Lauren Mentiply, Oxford Sigma).

Oxford Sigma has a track record of developing novel solutions in materials and in-vessel components, such as breeder blankets. Oxford Sigma has its own patented technology in breeder blanket design and is collaborating on alloy development with Singapore University of Design and Technology to rapidly screen prototype tungsten alloys across a large compositional range. The company also holds strong links with the University of Oxford on developing key fusion technology.

The outcome of this breeder blanket technology project will provide an advancement on the proprietary fusion materials technology, bringing it closer to commercialisation in order to accelerate the deployment of fusion energy. To discover how this project will be beneficial to you and your organisation, contact Oxford Sigma at [email protected].

“We are proud to be based in Oxfordshire, the epicenter of fusion research and technology development around the world. Oxford Sigma has been successful in securing an Oxfordshire grant that enables us to grow and provide the technology for tomorrow’s fusion devices.”

~ Dr Thomas Davis, CTO, Oxford Sigma

About Oxford Sigma
Oxford Sigma tackles energy security and climate change by accelerating the development of fusion and advanced nuclear energy. The company’s aim is to develop innovative nuclear technology to withstand extreme environments, provide nuclear materials expertise, and advise the advanced nuclear and fusion energy industries in their quest to achieve commercialisation. Internationally recognised as a highly technical SME, our growing team of engineers and scientists play an active role in the emerging supply chain ecosystem within the UK, USA and EU for fusion energy and advanced nuclear energy. Please do get in touch at [email protected]

About OxLEP
As the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), it is our role to champion Oxfordshire’s economic potential, acting as a catalyst and convener to drive a dynamic, sustainable and growing economy. We were formally launched by the then Business Minister, Mark Prisk MP, in March 2011 with the responsibility of championing and developing the Oxfordshire economy. We have made considerable progress in strengthening the county’s economy by establishing robust and effective relationships between businesses, academia and the public sector. Since our launch in March 2011, we have played a key role in driving forward a dynamic, growing and sustainable economy for Oxfordshire.