Development of next-generation nuclear technologies, whether fission or fusion, requires scientific laboratory activities and experimental activities on scale components or prototypes. The Experimental Engineering Division − is responsible for designing, developing and producing processes, materials, plants and components relevant to thermonuclear fusion and fission, and testing (with its in-house experimental infrastructures and laboratories).
Development of new technologies in the nuclear field entails deployment of processes, materials, plants and components subject to particularly severe conditions (e.g. corrosive/erosive environments, elevated heat fluxes, extreme temperatures, impulsive phenomena, high particle fluxes and ionising radiation). Add to this the need to use liquid metals, both heavy and alkaline, as functional materials or coolant fluids. The Experimental Engineering Division exploits these technical and scientific skills on thermal hydraulics, liquid metal and tritium technology, characterization and qualification of functional and structural materials. It is also committed on the development and qualification of instrumentation and computational codes backing up design.
Specifically, the Division:
- designs, develops and qualifies technologies for tritium breeding blankets of fusion reactors;
- conceptually designs, develops the engineering for, and constructs prototypes and complex technological systems for nuclear applications;
- engages in commissioning and operating experimental plants, as back-up for energy or hi-tech sector industrial players;
- establishes experimental methods and procedures, as well as devices such as systems, test sections, prototypes, measurers and demonstration models;
- conducts measurements and tests with water-, helium- and liquid metals-thermofluidodynamic plants to gain knowledge of, and certify, the functional and security characteristics of nuclear components and systems under various working conditions;
- develops innovative materials, both functional and structural, upgrading the reference standards for resistance to irradiation, to conserve mechanical properties at high temperatures and to ensure compatibility with coolant fluids;
- conducts lab measurements and tests for characterizing structural and functional materials under various working conditions;
- qualifies computational codes via use of experimental infrastructures, as well as numerical simulations for the purposes of design work and interpretation of the results of experiments.
These activities are mainly hosted by the Brasimone research centre, within the ambits of the following lines of research: the Sorgentina project aimed to produce medical isotopes with high efficiency; the Water Coolant Lithium Lead Breeding Blanket project; and the DTT project.
The Division manages and operates about ten significant medium/large experimental plants, with funding from the European EURATOM program, from the Italian Ministry for Economic Development, and from Regional funds. These research programmes are carried out in collaboration with universities, research institutes and industrial concerns.
In addition, Division staff members provide educational and training activities targeting students and researchers. They also engage in outreach and information sharing actions in collaboration with universities and other research centres.