Researchers and engineers was gathered together in order to find a way that can prevent helium from weakening nuclear fusion reactors.
They realized that this is possible only by using nanocomposite solids that are able to create channels through which the helium could escape.
One of the main obstacles preventing humanity from harnessing the power of fusion energy has been solved when researches from Los Alamos National Laboratory and from Texas A&M University made a collaboration to work in this huge issue.
For many scientists, fusion is the true “holy grail” of nuclear energy. But more in this field is yet to be discovered because researches must find a way how to turn it into a reliable source of truly renewable energy.
The fusion process expose reactors to extreme pressure and temperatures, helium — the byproduct of fusion between hydrogen atoms and also adds to the strain placed on reactors by bubbling out into the materials that results in weakening them
“Literally, you get these helium bubbles inside of the metal and stay there forever because the metal is solid. As you accumulate more and more helium, the bubbles start to link up and destroy the entire material”, said Michael Demkowicz, science and engineering professor in one press release.
Science Advances published a study where they have tested the behavior of helium in nanocomposite solids and realized that the helium didn’t form bubbles in these solids like it does in all the others traditionally used materials.
“We were blown away by what we saw,” said Demkowicz. “As you put more and more helium inside these nanocomposites, rather than destroying the material, the veins actually start to interconnect, resulting in kind of a vascular system.”
Many institutions that are looking for ways to somhow stabilize fusion reaction, are eager to develop a working fusion reactor prototype by 2030. Some of them are more interested in the use of non-hydrogen plasma and other are only trying to improve fusion reactors.
The vein-like tunnels may serve as channels through which helium can escape and that’s just the start. Demkowicz believes that “the bigger picture here is in vascularized solids, ones that are kind of like tissues with vascular networks”.
“What else can be transported through such networks? Maybe heat? Electricity? Or even chemicals that may help the material self heal.”