IAEA Seeks Solutions To Fusion Containment

The IAEA said Monday it had issued a challenge for data specialists to come up models that would open the door for new materials to be used to build fusion reactors.

Fusion modelThe international nuclear regulator posted a deadline for submission: 14 July 2018. The winner will be awarded with €5000. The winner would also be invited to the IAEA Headquarters in Vienna to present his or her ideas.

Nuclear fusion, the IAEA said in its online challenge, "has the potential to eventually provide an unlimited supply of cheap and clean, carbon-free energy using isotopes of hydrogen obtained from water and lithium."

The problem, however, is harnessing that power in a "commercially-viable" system. The goal of building a reactor that could sustain a fusion reaction in a manner that can be controlled and safe is a technological challenge the agency is trying to solve.

Technological problems include protecting the reactor itself from the enormously high temperatures obtained through fusion.

“Obtaining a very high temperature in a reactor is one of the required conditions for fusion to take place. At such high temperatures – ten times higher than at the core of our Sun – matter exists only as plasma, which must be confined by a magnetic field to keep it from damaging the reactor walls,” said Christian Hill, Head of the Atomic and Molecular Data Unit at the IAEA.

"By participating in this challenge, both specialists and non-specialists will be helping scientists to better understand how a material responds to high-energy events and will assist the development of a future fusion reactor,” Hill said.

"Do you have the solution? This is your chance to contribute to the future of clean energy! Hurry up – find out more and register," the IAEA said gamely.

The agency said the software solutions for this challenge are "open to novel approaches." The agency said it would consider "new software tools to rapidly and reliably identify, classify and quantify new patterns and structures of particular kinds in the data sets," and "efficient algorithms to depict and summarize the statistical distribution of atom displacements and to analyze the effect of impact energy on this distribution."

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