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Understanding tritium generation for nuclear fusion applications using neutron inventory calculations


   Department of Materials

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Research into nuclear fusion is at an exciting time, with the UK Government committing to put a pilot plant – STEP – online by 2040. A key aspect of this is the investigation of how to generate, separate, recycle, and reintroduce tritium (as part of the fuel form) for continued power generation. This project will use neutron transport simulations and inventory calculations to explore different material compounds and system configurations to better predict tritium generation and recovery in candidate fusion power systems.

Fusion offers the potential for low carbon emission electrical power generation. This process is initiated by the fusing of deuterium and tritium (both isotopes of hydrogen) within a hot plasma gas contained within the fusion core. Whilst deuterium is readily available within the environment, tritium is considerably less abundant. As such, in order to maintain a constantly burning plasma steps must be taken to ensure a plentiful supply of tritium is available. For fusion reactors this will be achieved by the generation of tritium close to the reactor core using the Li6(n, tritium) reaction. This process is performed within the breeder blanket module of the system. Currently, two broad forms of breeder blanket systems exist: the solid-state breeder and the liquid metal breeder, both of which rely on significant quantities of Li being present for breeding the tritium. Potential high-lithium content solid-state compounds of interest that will be investigated include Li2TiO3, Li2ZrO3, and Li4SiO4, and these will be studies in different scenarios with multiplier materials such as Be and as a function of enrichment levels. These results will be contrasted with studies into the different liquid breeder options, including FLiBe, LiPb eutectics and even pure Li.

Here, combination of transport simulations and neutron inventory calculations will be used to investigate the tritium breeding potential of different breeder blanket concepts exploring effects such as location within the reactor, different material and design options, and neutron exposure, and Li enrichment levels, and will involve significant interactions with the UKAEA team based at Culham with the successful candidate being trained in the use of state-of-the-art neutronics codes such as OpenMC and inventory tools like such as FISPACT-II. Another key aspect of tritium self-sufficiency in future fusion power plants is tritium recovery and accountancy.

Admissions qualifications / requirements

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in materials science, physics, mathematics, engineering, or a related discipline. 

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder). 

All appointments are made on merit


Funding Notes

Funding is for UK students only, funded by the University of Manchester as part of position start-up

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