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Helical Fusion and Tohoku University's Institute for Materials Research pioneer revolutionary metallic material for fusion reactor development~Innovative discovery paves the way for a commercial~

Tokyo, Japan – Helical Fusion Co., Ltd. (Headquarters: Chuo-ku, Tokyo; CEO: Takaya Taguchi and Junichi Miyazawa; "Helical Fusion"), a frontrunner in helical fusion reactor technology, in collaboration with the Tohoku University's Institute for Materials Research, a global leader in materials science, is pleased to announce a groundbreaking development in fusion reactor materials. This significant advancement will be featured in the esteemed Nuclear Materials and Energy journal in March 2024.


This collaborative effort has culminated in the creation of a novel metallic material, promising to revolutionize the commercial fusion reactor landscape. This development marks a significant stride towards more sustainable, durable materials in fusion technology.


Fusion power generation, mirroring the sun's energy production mechanism, facilitates the collision of hydrogen nuclei to produce vast amounts of energy from minimal fuel – a gram of fuel generates energy equivalent to about 8 tons of oil. This clean energy source, free from CO2 emissions, has the potential to revolutionize a huge market-size energy industry. Notably, global investment and development in fusion technology are escalating, with significant advancements in the , UK, Europe, Japan, China, and South Korea. Helical Fusion aims to pioneer the world's first steady-state fusion reactor using the helical method, ensuring stable, substantial power output.


In a fusion reactor, hydrogen is superheated to create plasma, with temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius. This plasma, composed of separated protons, neutrons, and electrons, is confined by a magnetic field. However, the fusion process also produces neutrons, leading to the activation of steel materials in the reactor, resulting in radioactive waste. A global research focus has been on developing reduced activation steel materials to shorten radioactivity decay time, enhancing safety.


Current low-radioactivation steels often possess magnetic properties, potentially disrupting the magnetic field and affecting plasma performance in fusion reactions. In partnership with Tohoku University's Institute for Materials Research, our team has innovated next-generation materials that are nonmagnetic, minimally impact the magnetic field, reduce long-lived radioactive waste, and resist material degradation at high temperatures.


The new material, a high manganese alumina-formed austenitic steel with a small silicon addition, is a breakthrough. By substituting nickel with manganese and incorporating aluminum, this material forms a protective alumina layer, enhancing corrosion resistance. Silicon plays a crucial role in developing this dense alumina film.


This innovation is not only pivotal for Helical Fusion's helical fusion reactor but also applicable to various neutron-involved fusion technologies, marking a critical step towards commercial fusion reactors.


The research findings were initially published online in Nuclear Materials and Energy (Science Direct) at the end of last year and will feature in the March 2024 journal issue.


Helical Fusion continues to lead in cutting-edge materials research and development, aiming to demonstrate a cost-competitive fusion reactor on a global scale.


For further information or collaboration inquiries, please contact us.


Terminology:

Activation: The process whereby a non-radioactive isotope becomes radioactive upon exposure to radiation.

Alumina: Aluminum oxide, is a versatile fine ceramic material known for its electrical insulation, wear resistance, scientific stability, and cost-effectiveness.

Austenitic steel: A chromium and nickel-based stainless steel variant, forming an austenitic metallic structure at room temperature, known for superior corrosion resistance and weldability.


About Helical Fusion

Helical Fusion is a Japan-origin startup dedicated to integrating fusion energy into society through magnetic field confinement. Over the past 60 years, various fusion methods have been explored globally. In Japan, the helical method, akin to the double helical structure of DNA, using superconducting coils, has been developed and refined. Helical Fusion's mission is to unveil the world's first steady-state fusion reactor, incorporating advanced technologies into the helical method.


Comments from Leadership

Takaya Taguchi, co-CEO, Helical Fusion: "This research marks a monumental discovery for fusion reactor commercialization. This achievement is a testament to the collective expertise of Helical Fusion and the Institute for Materials Research, at Tohoku University. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Kasada Laboratory team for their dedication, and Helical Fusion remains committed to advancing this transformative technology."

Ryuta Kasada, professor, Institute for Materials Research, Tohoku University: "This material development has illuminated the role of silicon as a trace additive in promoting the formation of a dense alumina layer, enhancing resistance to oxidation and corrosion – previously identified weaknesses in high manganese austenitic steels. Alongside our oxide dispersion strengthening technology, we are advancing the development of structural materials that exhibit exceptional high-temperature strength and irradiation resistance, essential for nuclear fusion reactors."

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