Experiments at the European JET tokamak to test electronics in fusion environments

Impact of neutrons on the performance of electronics exposed to fusion energy conditions

Photo: a section of the electronic circuit panels tested during the experiment

Jean-Luc Autran, who joined the IPR in July 2023, leads a research project on the physics of particle-electronics interactions. Since 2019, his former team at IM2NP in Marseille has been conducting a research project on the characterization and predictive simulation of the impact of fusion neutrons on the reliability of electronics in thermonuclear fusion machines. This work is now being pursued and developed at IPR in the Materials-Nanosciences department.

As part of this study, conducted in collaboration with teams from CEA-IRFM (Institut de Recherche sur la Fusion Magnétique), CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and EUROfusion (European consortium for the development of fusion energy), a measurement campaign lasting several weeks was recently completed at the JET (Joint European Torus) tokamak in Culham (UK).

The test bench installed at JET has enabled, for the first time, to characterize with great precision the electrical signature of neutron effects produced by deuterium-tritium fusion reactions in 65-nanometer CMOS memories manufactured by STMicroelectronics. Several hundred singular events were recorded. In addition, real-time spectroscopy of neutrons arriving on the electronic circuits was carried out throughout the experiment, enabling the observed effects to be correlated with radiative stress.

Understanding how electronic components react to the neutron-rich environment characteristic of fusion will help anticipate how these components will need to be designed, protected and integrated into future fusion machines. The data and lessons learned from this experiment should be applicable to the entire fusion sector, including ITER, DEMO and STEP, as well as to industries that need to use electronics in extreme environments.

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JET experiments to test electronics in fusion environments