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Technologies associated with Fusion Research & Development

Though the first commercial electricity producing fusion power plant may still be several decades away, the fusion research effort is not at all decoupled from society. Reaching the goal of fusion power has already involved pushing many leading-edge technologies to new limits. On various occasions innovative solutions to the problems encountered have found applications outside the fusion domain. Already today, there are many spin-offs of the fusion programme.

Due to their sustaining high heat fluxes, various components have to be cooled actively in fusion machines. High heat flux components relying on specific bonding of carbon fiber composites to copper were used for cooling Tore Supra's toroidal pump limiter (Tore Supra is located at Cadarache, France, on the site chosen for ITER). This technology has been subsequently applied in space applications. Dunlop Aviation developed carbon composites for the first wall tiles for JET; these materials are now used in the brakes and clutches of airplanes and trains. Industrial amplifier applications have resulted from the development of high power gyrotrons for the auxiliary heating systems of various fusion machines. Fabrication of superconducting cables for the magnetic field coils has proven of use for nuclear magnetic resonance imaging devices used in hospitals. These few examples exemplify a defining feature of the European Fusion Programme: the constant exchange of knowledge, both among research partners and with industry.

Interested readers can check the document on already existing spin-offs of the fusion effort in the list of downloadable texts (see "Spin-offs from fusion research" [560kB - pdf]).