At the end of 2022, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced they had observed a net energy gain through nuclear fusion for the very first time. This monumental milestone toward fusion energy represents a huge leap forward in powering our homes and businesses with the carbon-neutral energy source. But converting this scientific achievement into a practical power source also requires new technologies to make a fusion-powered society a reality. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) are helping bring this goal to fruition through their materials research efforts. Their recent work, published in Scientific Reports, makes the case for tungsten heavy alloys and shows how they can be improved for use in advanced nuclear fusion reactors by mimicking the structure of seashells.
“This is the first study to observe these material interfaces at such small length scales,” said Jacob Haag, first author of the research paper. “In doing so we revealed some of the fundamental mechanisms which govern material toughness and durability.”