top of page
ITER tokamak.jpg

ITER fusion energy

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

Somni sensors for nuclear fusion energy

Nuclear fusion energy could play a crucial role in addressing climate change and meeting future energy needs.

If nuclear fusion can be successfully harnessed for energy production, it could be a nearly limitless, carbon-free energy source with minimal long-term radioactive waste compared to nuclear fission reactors.

There are several fusion reactions that can occur, but the most promising for practical energy production involves the fusion of deuterium and tritium nuclei. The reaction produces a helium nucleus, a neutron, and a large amount of energy.

There are numerous international research projects dedicated to achieving controlled nuclear fusion, with some of the most prominent being ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) in France, which is a large-scale tokamak experiment. Other experiments based on the tokamak principal are: JET (Joint European Torus) located in Culham, United Kingdom and JT-60SA: Located in Naka, Japan and is part of Japan's contributions to the ITER project. Other developments are for example at the National Ignition Facility (NIF): Located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, USA. It uses powerful lasers to compress and heat small fuel pellets containing deuterium and tritium.    


What is ITER?

ITER 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, with three groundbreaking sensors.

Project 1

ITER- Beamline: temperature and acceleration sensors

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!

Project 2

ITER- Port plugs acceleration sensors

Stainless steel plugs weighing up to 48 tons 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.

Acceleration sensors play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and reliable operation of ITER port plugs by monitoring structural integrity, detecting impacts, facilitating performance optimization, and enabling adaptive control mechanisms for the port plugs and associated components.

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 EMI, 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.

Project 3

Port plugs strain sensors

Also strain sensors are indispensable tools for ensuring the safety, reliability, and performance  of the port plugs in ITER. They provide critical data for structural monitoring, safety assurance and validation of numerical models, contributing to the successful operation of the fusion reactor.

Somni has been given the challenge of developing strain sensors for the upper and equatorial port plugs!

In addition to all requirements such as: environmental conditions, mechanical compatibility, radiation hardness, calibration and maintenance, as well as documentation and quality assurance, ITER also has extremely high requirements for the sensitivity and temperature stability of these rosette strain sensors.

Somni Corporation bv

Rotterdamseweg 183C

2629 HD Delft

The Netherlands

  • LinkedIn
  • Whatsapp
bottom of page