Thursday, March 23, 2023

University of Sheffield to work in partnership with UKAEA on fusion energy project

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and the University of Sheffield will work in partnership to drive the development of fusion technology and the UK’s future fusion industry.

The collaboration will see the University of Sheffield appoint two chairs in fusion research and development, and establish new research programmes to address global fusion challenges:

  • The Chair in Qualification for Fusion will address fundamental engineering challenges in the qualification of components, fabricated assemblies and systems for use within future fusion power plants.
  • The Chair in Fusion Materials will focus on innovation in materials design and processing to improve power plant performance and the decommissioning and recycling of new materials.

Both will work closely with UKAEA staff and the Nuclear AMRC, which is already collaborating with UKAEA on a range of projects to develop manufacturing technologies and supply chain capabilities for the fusion programme.

Charles Carpenter, Chief Technology Officer at the Nuclear AMRC, said: “Fusion power will be an essential part of the UK’s long-term energy future, but turning the science into commercial reality presents huge challenges to researchers, engineers and manufacturers. This new partnership will help UKAEA to draw on the University of Sheffield’s research excellence in engineering and materials, and its world-leading centres for advanced manufacturing innovation and industrial collaboration.

“We look forward to building on our current work with UKAEA to develop manufacturing techniques for the STEP prototype at West Burton, and to help UK manufacturers grow their capabilities and skills to win work in the rapidly developing fusion market.”

The University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering will host the two new chairs. UKAEA has chosen to work with the University because of its expertise and strong track record in materials science, engineering and manufacturing research, which are crucial for developing new low-carbon technologies. UKAEA will also collaborate with the University’s UK-leading research in thermal hydraulics, a key research area in the development of fusion as an energy source.

Dr Amanda Quadling, Director of Materials Research at UKAEA, said: “We are pleased to partner with the University of Sheffield. Their Department of Materials Science and Engineering has a combination of process innovation capabilities, metals performance testing and high calibre microscopy skills which will complement our post-irradiation activities.

“This partnership will help to address intrinsic engineering and materials challenges in order to make fusion energy commercially viable. It will also develop a pipeline of talent for the future of our thriving fusion industry.”

Professor Jim Litster, Vice-President for Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: “Here at Sheffield, we have a long track record of world-leading research excellence across materials science, advanced manufacturing, engineering, and low-carbon energy research. This is coupled with successful translation into industry and UK government policy.

“Developing strong external partnerships is a key part of our Faculty of Engineering’s strategy. With the University, UKAEA’s Fusion Technology Facility in Rotherham and the STEP prototype fusion powerplant site at West Burton, Nottinghamshire, all in relatively close proximity to one another, the partnership will develop a strong regional focus on fusion excellence in South Yorkshire and surrounding regions. Harnessing the research strength of northern universities, such as ours at Sheffield, is crucial if the UK is going to transition to low-carbon energy sources and protect its energy supply over the long-term.”

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