Cutting edge technology


ESR Technology has been appointed to provide tribology expertise on ITER, the large-scale, multinational, scientific project to produce commercial energy from fusion.

ITER, which means "the way" in Latin, was established twenty-five years ago by a group of industrial nations (including China, EU, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and USA) to develop a new, cleaner, sustainable source of energy – fusion energy that can create 10 times more energy than it takes to produce. It is considered by some to be the ideal energy source of the future.

The expertise of both the Space and Materials Engineering teams combined to secure the win. Steve Gill, Senior Technical Director at ESR Technology who led the bid, said: “The expertise of these two teams is world class. Our experience, knowledge base and technical ability is wider than most organisations. I’m convinced that’s why we have been appointed. It’s a very exciting project with which to be involved – we are part of an initiative that could transform how we create energy.

The interior of the donut shaped vacuum pressure vessel (called a Tokamak) where the fusion takes place is formed of multiple interlocking pieces that are bolted together. The large metal clamps and bolts are coated to minimise friction. ESR’s expertise lies in helping to specify a suitable coating that will be able to last for many years under vacuum, whilst suffering doses of radiation and varying forces due to magnetic and plasma effects. It is critical to ITER that the internal components can be removed by remote handling equipment when required.

The team are currently in the process of writing a report to recommend the most appropriate coatings that will withstand the intense environment. To substantiate their recommendations, they are conducting thermal vacuum tests of various coatings on similar clamps and bolts as those used in the pressure vessel.

The Q in the formula above symbolizes the ratio of fusion power to input power. Q ≥ 10 represents the scientific goal of the ITER project: to deliver ten times the power it consumes. From 50 MW of input power, the ITER machine is designed to produce 500 MW of fusion power—the first of all fusion experiments to produce net energy.
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