Experts from EK-CER pioneering in injecting hydrogen ice pellets that will serve to protect the ITER fusion system

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ITER, which is being implemented in an international collaboration with participation of experts from the ELKH Centre for Energy Research (EK-CER), is one of the largest experimental power plants aimed at demonstrating the technological feasibility of fusion energy production. Experts from the EK-CER Fusion Plasma Physics Laboratory planned, built and put into operation the experimental injection system that serves to ensure the safe and fast shutdown of the system in record time. Since 2021, they have completed close to 400 injections on the EK-CER KFKI Campus. In the summer of 2022, the specialists of the laboratory were the first in the world to prepare and inject the hydrogen ice pellets that will later be used in ITER.

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The ITER shattered pellet injection testing system in the EK-CER Fusion Plasma Physics Laboratory

In the ITER facility hydrogen plazma will be heated to a temperature higher than that of the core of the Sun, some 100 million degrees Celsius (°C), ‘burning’ it into helium and producing ten times more energy than is used to heat the material. It has been just under two years since the EK-CER Fusion Plasma Physics Laboratory won the tender as part of the ITER project to build a support laboratory and to develop and test the technology to safely shut down the fusion system.

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Image of hydrogen pellets frozen to -269 °C following injection. The image of the pellet flying at 500 m/s was recorded with a special high-speed camera.

The arrival of a neon pellet at the breaking point

In order to protect the system, secure and rapid shutdown is performed by 27 injection devices, from which hydrogen ice at a temperature of -260 °C is shot out at the speed of a gun and arrives at the hot plasma broken up into tiny pieces. The engineers and researchers of the EK-CER laboratory planned, built and put into operation the experimental injection system in record time despite the COVID19 pandemic. Since December 2021, almost 400 injections have taken place on the EK-CER KFKI Campus. In the summer of 2022, the specialists of the laboratory were the first in the world to prepare and inject hydrogen ice pellets that will also later be used in ITER.

Thanks to the many research projects taking place in Hungary in recent years, the Hungarian fusion community was represented in large numbers at the 32nd Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT). The event organized in Dubrovnik, Croatia with over 580 participants was attended by 19 Hungarian researchers and engineers, whose work was introduced within the framework of 17 posters.

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The booth of IK and its industrial partners

EK-CER and its industrial partners also presented themselves at the exhibition associated with the conference, where the Hungarian stand was one of the most frequented.