CARY, NC-- LORD Corporation has formed a strategic collaboration with Composite Technology Development, Inc. (CTD) for the supply of an electrical insulation material to be used for the ITER Toroidal Field (TF) coils.
The role of LORD in this global scientific project that seeks to demonstrate the potential of producing commercial energy from fusion is to supply the electrical insulation for the 18 TF coils. CTD pioneered the development of cyanate ester resins for radiation resistant electrical insulation used in plasma confinement magnets. These insulations withstand radiation doses up to ten times higher than traditionally used epoxy resins. CTD was able to qualify their insulation material, CTD-435, with ITER, for use in the coils which will be used to confine the plasma in the reactor. LORD is licensed to manufacture and sell CTD-435 globally to meet the demands of the ITER project.
According to Naseem Munshi, Ph.D., President of CTD, the ITER TF Coils will be among the largest superconducting magnets ever fabricated. Further, they will be exposed to high levels of radiation resulting from the fusion reactions occurring within the ITER device.
"Electrical insulation can be very sensitive to radiation exposure," Munshi noted. "Based on early research performed by CTD, the ITER organization developed an insulation specification that utilized the epoxy and cyanate ester blend designed to provide adequate performance at twice the anticipated TF coil radiation exposure. LORD CTD-435 has been qualified by the ITER International Organization (IO) to meet these criteria. This blended resin exhibits a higher radiation tolerance than alternative epoxy formulations."
According to Munshi, the use of the cyanate ester resin for the TF coil insulation will represent the single largest use of low viscosity cyanate ester resins to date.
When CTD received approval for its coil potting materials, it sought a partner to manufacture and distribute the product in Europe and Japan. Further, CTD needed a supplier capable of manufacturing and supplying these materials close to the end-users. Having met LORD representatives at a Materials and Renewable Energy Conference, the two companies explored the potential to work together. With sales teams located in Japan and Europe, LORD was able to provide CTD with the necessary presence to develop relationships with potential customers.
"LORD has an extensive line of potting and encapsulation materials for demanding applications in automotive, medical, aerospace and industrial electronics, as well as a unique blend of chemically and mechanically engineered products," said Andrew Kintz, a senior staff scientist at LORD. "It is our ability to understand the demands of our customers and our willingness to bring many scientific disciplines to bear to solve challenging problems that makes us successful. Once I understood this (CTD-435) technology, it seemed like a logical fit for LORD."
"LORD Corporation's distribution/manufacturing expertise and global resources have made possible the delivery of large quantities of CTD resin as well as the necessary customer support in the international market that was out of our reach," said Munshi.
In addition to the ITER project, Munshi noted that CTD hopes to collaborate with LORD on other applications for this as well as other variants of this material.
"This project is essentially the design and construction of a superconducting magnet," said Munshi, "so there are other applications and possibilities for using our expertise such as in the high energy physics and accelerator fields."
Munshi noted that another success that should be touted is the funding gained through the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to develop this unique expertise. SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.
In this instance, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fusion Energy had indicated the need for radiation resistant electrical insulation for magnets as an enabling technology for fusion energy. In response to this need, CTD started working on cyanate ester materials for radiation resistant electrical insulation in the mid-1990s, and through several Phase I and Phase II SBIRs, has been able to demonstrate the performance and radiation resistance of these materials under conditions anticipated within the magnet coils.
"Our contract and participation in the ITER program is a fantastic example of how the SBIR program can create success," said Andrea Haight, Ph.D., the Senior Program Manager for CTD's SBIR programs related to radiation resistant electrical insulation materials. "In our case, the SBIR program enabled us to gain funding in electrical insulation in magnets related to fusion. The result is not only the contract we earned, but it has implications for other companies as well such as LORD Corporation."
The next step after ITER is the Demonstration Power Plant, or DEMO. A conceptual design for such a machine could be complete by 2017. If all goes well, DEMO will lead fusion into its industrial era, beginning operations in the early 2030s, and putting fusion power into the grid as early as 2040.
CTD is a product-development and engineering services company specializing in high-performance electrical insulation for large magnet systems, cryogenic mechanical testing, and engineering design and analysis. Founded in 1988, the company has supported the construction of numerous high-performance magnet systems and composite structures for operation at cryogenic temperatures. CTD has brought value and engineered material solutions to customers in the energy, medical, defense, and aerospace industries around the world.
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