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Mike Gorley – Chief Technologist at Culham’s Fusion Technology unit – will address conference delegates around the world when he delivers a keynote ‘virtual’ Plenary talk at the SOFT event on Friday (25th September).

Mike Gorley

Mike Gorley using Fusion Technology facilities at Culham

This year’s Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT) – which was originally scheduled to take place in Croatia – is one of many scientific conferences now moving online following Covid-19, which also significantly reduces the carbon footprint of delegates.

Held every two years, SOFT is one of the key international conferences in fusion research. Other speakers delivering Plenary talks at SOFT this year include the Director General of ITER, Bernard Bigot, and EUROfusion Programme Manager,Tony Donné.

One of Mike’s responsibilities has been leading some of the work on structural materials within the EUROfusion DEMO powerplant programme.

His talk – which along with the others has been pre-recorded – will focus on the development of materials for DEMO’s divertor and blanket, two key fusion reactor components.

Much of the current research for such materials focuses on what is known as RAFM steels – or reduced activation ferritic / martensitic steels. These are seen as the leading candidates for DEMO materials around the world.

Mike said: “I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to deliver a Plenary talk at SOFT. It’s actually the first major fusion conference to go virtual, so that’s a big deal too.

“In terms of the talk, I will focus on the materials which may be used for future DEMOs – these are materials not being used in tokamaks at the moment.

“A lot of the mechanical testing for this is done with partner laboratories. Essentially we place sample materials inside an irradiated fission environment and then we take them out to test them and see what the effects of irradiation are.

“Typically, these materials will spend a few years inside a reactor and then it takes a few years for them to cool down. Then we will typically test them for another 12 months so it’s a long-term project.”

Mike added that a material’s properties change depending on the temperature it is exposed to as well as the duration of its irradiation. This means it is important to carry out tests that replicate fusion reactor conditions for long periods of time.

“The materials are different to those which are inside fusion experiments like JET, for example. JET turns on for about a minute and then turns off again before commencing a few minutes later. That’s different to what DEMO will do; in DEMO we are hoping the pulse will last several hours at a time. This completely changes the material’s performance.”

Mike’s talk – which will also feature a virtual Q and A – will be available to watch online by all attendees of the SOFT2020 conference.


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