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BIG Science - ITER

Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun and the stars, a potential source of safe, carbon-free, and practically limitless energy.

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What is ITER?

ITER ("The Way" in Latin) is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today.

In southern France, 35 nations are working together to build the world's biggest tokamak, an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion. Inside this vessel, the energy that is produced through the fusion of atoms, is absorbed as heat in the walls. A fusion powerplant will use this heat to produce steam, and later electricity by the way of turbines and generators, just like a conventional powerplant.


ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy, and to maintain fusion for long periods of time. Furthermore, ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

Somni has had the opportunity to contribute to this amazing innovation, not once but twice!

Project 1:
ITER- Beamline

The tokamak requires nine support systems for its operation. Three of these systems are needed for raising the temperature of the plasma to thermonuclear temperatures and controlling or sustaining the plasma current that is crucial for the tokamak operation. One of these systems is the beamline module.

There are nine Neutral beamline Injection modules that provide most of the plasma heating and current drive power. Each of these neutral beamline modules produces up to 10 MV of atoms with extremely high energies. By injecting these atoms through tangential access ports into the torus (donut shaped chamber), the plasma temperature will rise to fusion temperatures, and in addition drive part of the plasma current.

Somni’s accelerometers and temperature sensors are installed along these beamline modules.

Developing fiber optic accelerometers and temperature sensors that can withstand radiation, vacuum and high temperature environments is quite a challenge, but Somni made it happen!


sensors used

  • Modified AC 1-ax 80 NT

  • Max temperature 170 °C

  • Radiation hard

  • Vacuum compatible

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sensors used

  • Small form factor temperature sensor

  • Range 20°C - 300 °C

  • Radiation hard

  • Vacuum compatible


Project 2:
ITER- Port plugs

Stainless steel plugs weighing up to 48 tonnes are sealing off each opening to the ITER vacuum chamber.

Not only are they massive, but they are also very complex. These port plugs are protecting and carrying some of the most valuable payloads of the machine. This includes diagnostics and heating system elements that are crucial to make the tokamak work efficiently.

Somni is given the opportunity to develop accelerometers for the upper and equatorial port plugs!

These accelerometers shall operate many years without service at a rather harsh EM, radiation, thermal and vacuum environment: Accordingly, they should be EMI insensitive, robust, employ only rad-hard, high temperature and vacuum compatible materials, well cooled by thermal conduction to diffuse away the nuclear heat, preferably without kinematic and sliding joints.

More information coming soon...


Let's Work Together

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Rik Knoppers


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Eric Meijer


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Remco Nieuwland


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