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IAEA Issues Crowdsourcing Challenge for Materials for Fusion Technology


A visualization of the cascade of collisions leading to damage in a crystalline material. (Photo: A. Sand/University of Helsinki)

The IAEA has issued a challenge for data specialists from around the world to submit innovative ways to visualise, analyse and explore simulations of different materials that can be used to build fusion reactors.

Deadline for submission is 14 July 2018. The winner will be awarded with €5000 and invited to the IAEA Headquarters in Vienna to present his or her ideas.

Nuclear fusion, the reaction that powers the Sun, 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. However, harnessing commercially-viable fusion power involves serious technological challenges that are expected to take many years to solve, including protecting the wall and other components of the reactor vessel from extremely high temperatures and energetic particles – the area that this initiative will help to address.

“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.

Experts and self-taught enthusiasts are invited to analyse simulations of the damage that can be caused to the reactor wall by the energetic neutrons released by the fusion reaction.

“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.

The results of the challenge will be useful for the development of a demonstration fusion power plant such as DEMO, which will operate for long enough periods for the walls and other components to get damaged from the fusion reactions taking place. The design of this facility is under way in many countries and were the subject of a recent IAEA workshop.

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

The contest leaves the nature of the software solutions open to enable novel approaches, but one or more of the following can be considered:

  • Novel software for visualizing the material damage represented by the simulation data files in a way that aids its qualitative and quantitative assessment.
  • New software tools to rapidly and reliably identify, classify and quantify new patterns and structures of particular kinds in the data sets.
  • 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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