RISE contributes to the development of the ITER fusion reactor
13 March 2023, 07:56
Swedish research institute RISE and Lund University, LTH Faculty of Engineering, have studied how power converters in the experimental fusion reactor ITER can be constructed. The results pave the way for Swedish industry that wants to do business with large-scale research facilities.
In the fusion reactor hydrogen plasma with a temperature of 150 million degrees Celsius must be held in place by extremely strong magnetic fields.
ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an experimental fusion reactor under construction in southern France. In the reactor, hydrogen plasma with a temperature of 150 million degrees Celsius will be held in place by extremely strong magnetic fields. This requires powerful power converters that can supply magnetic coils with the required energy.
“One of the main challenges is the strong magnetic fields close to the reactor which affect the power converters. When shielding is not feasible, one solution to protect against magnetic fields is to increase the size of critical components. But the other big challenge is the limited available physical space and weight restrictions. The power converters can’t be too big or too heavy”, says Joni Klüss, senior researcher at RISE.
A solution that meets the requirements
In the spring of 2022, RISE and Lund University, LTH Faculty of Engineering, were commissioned by ITER to study how these power converters can be constructed. AQ Elautomatik, which builds equipment for power electronics, has also been involved as a subcontractor in the project, which was completed at the end of February 2023.
Through comprehensive assessment of different technologies, the project has delivered a recommended feasible solution for ITER, including suggestions for mechanical integration, cost breakdown and planning for the final commissioning of the power supplies.
“We were surprised by just how impactful the magnetic fields proved to be and had to go through each component individually to arrive at a solution. Nevertheless, we were able to develop a solution that not only meets space and weight limitations, but also provides superior performance and is manufacturable.”, says Joni Klüss.
More opportunities for Swedish industry
In an upcoming procurement, ITER wants to deepen the knowledge on how the magnetic fields affect the power converters by testing the equipment in an experimental setting with real magnetic fields. And in the long term, there will be more opportunities for Swedish industry, when construction and delivery of the power converters will be procured.
“Through the results we have delivered here, we have increased confidence in Sweden's competitiveness and paved the way for Swedish companies that want to deliver to large-scale research facilities”, says Håkan Nilsson, project manager at RISE and business developer at Big Science Sweden, which supports Swedish companies and organizations that want to develop and deliver advanced technology to large-scale research facilities.
20-30 billion each year
ITER is just one of several European large-scale research facilities with opportunities for Swedish industry to participate in collaborations and do business. There is the particle accelerator CERN in Switzerland, ESS which is currently being built in Lund and the SKA observatory (Square Kilometer Array) which began construction in December, just to name a few.
“These facilities account for procurements of 20–30 billion SEK each year, and our mission is to make sure Sweden, with our technology and expertise, finds opportunities to contribute and make business”, says Håkan Nilsson.
Niklas Jälevik, Head of media relations, email@example.com
Fusion and ITER
Fusion is the process in which two atoms fuse to form a larger atom, releasing energy in the process. It occurs at extreme temperatures and pressures, as in the Sun and other stars, and releases much more energy than fission, where a larger atom is split into two smaller atoms, which is used in ordinary nuclear power plants.
The purpose of the experimental fusion reactor ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is to demonstrate that fusion energy can be used as a clean and safe energy source for the future. The reactor enables researchers all around the world to develop new technologies and materials for fusion energy and will pave the way for future reactors that can produce electricity for the market. The ITER project involves 35 countries, and the reactor is expected to be operational in 2035.
Big Science Sweden
RISE is part of the consortium that forms Big Science Sweden, financed by the Swedish Research Council and Vinnova, which aim to strengthen Sweden's ability and resources to develop and deliver advanced technology to large-scale research facilities where Sweden participates and is funding. Big Science Sweden helps companies, institutes and universities participate in collaborations and do business with these research facilities.