Mitsubishi Build’s World’s Largest Superconducting Coil for Fusion Reactor

  • Our Bureau
  • 11:15 AM, January 30, 2020
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Mitsubishi Build’s World’s Largest Superconducting Coil for Fusion Reactor

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has built the world’s largest superconducting coil, also called toroidal field (TF) coil for the ITER (experimental fusion reactor) project in France.

The Japan National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), have completed manufacture of the first toroidal field (TF) coil. To mark its completion, a formal ceremony was held at MHI's Futami Plant in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan Wednesday, MHI announced today.

The newly completed TF coil is the first main structural component for ITER's magnet system, and its completion is a major milestone forward for the reactor's construction. Plans call for five TF coils to be produced at the Futami Plant, which will be shipped to southern France in the run-up to the start of ITER operations in 2025.

The ITER Project is an international megaproject aimed at demonstrating the realization of fusion energy. Seven Parties are participating: Japan, the EU, the U.S., Russia, Korea, China, and India. Construction of ITER is underway in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France, with a target operational startup date of 2025.

Japan is playing a major role in developing and manufacturing the crucial components of ITER, including the TF coils. QST is in charge of procuring these components as the ITER Japan domestic agency for the ITER Project designated by Japanese Government.

Mitsubishi Build’s World’s Largest Superconducting Coil for Fusion Reactor

ITER's superconducting TF coils are D-shaped and approximately 16.5m in height, 9m wide, and weigh some 300 tonnes. Eighteen TF coils will encompass the vacuum vessel container and generate a powerful magnetic field (maximum of 12 tesla) to confine high-temperature, high-density plasma within the vessel.

The ITER Project requires a total of 19 TF coils to be made: 9 in Japan (including the spare) and 10 in Europe. The inner coil structures for all 19 TF coils will be manufactured at MHI's Futami Plant. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation is in charge of producing the Nb3Sn superconducting winding packs for five TF coils (including the newly completed coil), with the outer coil structures being manufactured in Korea, and final assembly performed back at MHI's Futami Plant.

To confine plasma inside ITER, a highly precise, strong magnetic field (12 tesla) is required, which called for the development of unprecedentedly large superconducting coils that use niobium-tin conductors. To maintain superconductivity, the coils must be able to function in cryogenic temperatures of -269 °C, which required special stainless steel structural materials capable of withstanding such low temperatures to be developed along with all requisite manufacturing technology.

QST commenced R&D for the TF coil manufacturing technology in 2005, and MHI began their manufacture in 2012. Working in collaboration, QST and MHI developed high-precision technology for winding niobium-tin conductors, and also developed durable structural materials made from a special stainless steel capable of withstanding cryogenic temperatures.