NCC and UK Atomic Power Authority Creating Fusion-grade Silicon Carbide Ceramic Matrix Composites

HASTE-F is an initiative funded by the Royce Materials Challenge Accelerator Program (MCAP) and led by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) focused on solutions to engineering challenges in the use of silicon carbide composites (SiC/SiC) as a fusion material. The National Composites Center (NCC) is now collaborating with UKAEA on the initiative.

SiC/SiC components used in fusion reactors could double the electricity generated from every gigawatt of thermal energy produced when compared to steel designs, saving money and reducing the number of reactors required to meet energy needs. The research team from NCC and UKAEA identified a change in SiC/SiC development to allow efficient, scalable, and cost-effective manufacturing for fusion-grade SiC materials, reducing costs of manufacturing to one fifth of current costs and shortening cycle times.

dr James Wade-Zhu, senior materials engineer at the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said, “Silicon carbide composites have the potential to enhance fusion by enabling reactors to operate at higher temperatures for improved thermal efficiency, greatly increasing the commercial viability of fusion energy production. We are pleased to be working closely with the National Composite Center to address concerns around the scalability, formability, and performance of current SiC/SiC grades, bringing about the generation of new UK IP in the process.”

Virtudes Rubio, principal engineer from the NCC added, “The National Composites Center is accelerating net-zero energy generation by developing high value composites for extreme environments such as fusion reactors. This could unlock high-volume, high-performance SiC/SiC to the UK, driving a major transformation in sectors that utilize high-temperature CMCs, such as nuclear, defence, space and aerospace.”

Looking forward, fusion energy will be prominent in the UK’s energy plans for the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) program, with the goal of constructing the first grid-connected reactor by 2040. The results of the work of the NCC and UKAEA will make SiC/SiC composites an efficient and cost-effective solution for commercial fusion power production.

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