Skip to main content

Fusion Materials

The ORNL Fusion Materials Program

The ORNL Fusion Materials Program is embedded in the Nuclear Materials Science and Technology (NMST) group of the Materials Science and Technology Division, also drawing support from other groups in MSTD. The core of the Fusion Materials program is a team of scientists, engineers, and technicians who specialize in materials science and technology for nuclear applications. The research expertise of the group spans the development of novel materials, evaluation of the property changes and physical processes of radiation effects, to computational modeling and extrapolation of materials behavior in fusion energy systems. The current material systems in the Fusion Materials Program portfolio include conventional and advanced steels, nonferrous metals and alloys, ceramics and ceramic composites, and materials for magnets, plasma control and diagnostic systems.

The NMST Group advances the materials science and technology base by conducting innovative research and development for a broad spectrum of nuclear fusion and fission power and fundamental science programs. One primary area of current studies supports research and development of structural, functional, and plasma-facing materials for fusion energy.

The fusion materials program also draws support from MSTD groups that focus on Materials Processing & Joining, Corrosion Science & Technology and Materials Theory. Groups outside of MSTD support Irradiation Experiment Design & Fabrication, HFIR Operation, and Hot Cell Operations.

Understanding fusion environment-induced damage mechanisms, especially neutron irradiation effects, and how they impose changes in materials is the overall goal of the Fusion Materials program. Knowledge of these damage mechanisms can lead to development of improved materials, design strategies that mitigate deleterious radiation effects - providing improvements in safety, lifetime, as well as increasing efficiency and performance of materials and components. This research consists of both experimental and theoretical work with a central focus on studying radiation induced changes in physical, mechanical and structural properties of materials through simulation, experimental analysis and materials characterization.

This program makes extensive use of neutron irradiation facilities in the ORNL High Flux Isotope Reactor, providing a partial simulation of irradiation expected in a D-T fusion power system.  Separate experimental systems evaluate compatibility of solid materials with coolant and tritium breeding liquids and system gases. Other facilities simulate the high heat loads expected on fusion reactor surfaces. These experiments support the US program and collaborations with international partner fusion programs.

The NMST Group operates scientific instruments in unique radiological materials examination facilities including the Low Activation Materials Development and Analysis (LAMDA) laboratory, the Irradiated Materials Examination and Testing (IMET) hot cells facility, and various instruments and test systems in non-radiological laboratories. IMET is used for disassembly of HFIR irradiation experiments and for the mechanical testing of specimens with high levels of radioactivity; lower activity materials can be examined in LAMDA, without the need for remote operation. The LAMDA facility is dedicated to the characterization of radiological materials through thermophysical, mechanical and microstructural analysis utilizing a modern suite of instruments. The LAMDA lab operates independently as a separate cost center within the Materials Science and Technology Division structure, but with scientific advisory and instrument oversight provided by the NMST Group.

Annual Progress Reports

Semiannual Progress Reports