Dynamic in lithiated graphite: a) Experiments show that deuterium bombardment dramatically increases the surface oxygen; b) Simulation shell for the D-impact chemistry in lithiated and oxidized carbon

Research on lithium coatings unlocks mystery surrounding the harnessing of fusion energy

January 31, 2013

(Phys.org)—The research of a multi-institutional team from the U.S., Japan, and France, led by Predrag S. Krstic of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences and Jean Paul Allain of Purdue University has answered the question of how the behavior of plasma—the extremely hot gases of nuclear fusion—can be controlled with ultra-thin lithium films on graphite walls lining thermonuclear magnetic fusion devices.

“It is remarkable that seemingly insignificant lithium depositions can profoundly influence the behavior of something as powerful as fusion plasmas,” Krstic said.

Krstic and his team explain their research in a paper titled “Deuterium Uptake in Magnetic Fusion Devices with Lithium Conditioned Carbon Walls,” recently accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters.

“How lithium coatings on graphite surfaces control plasma behavior has largely remained a mystery until our team was able to combine predictions from quantum-mechanical supercomputer simulations on the Kraken and Jaguar systems at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and in situ experimental results from the Purdue group to explain the causes of the delicate tunability of plasma behavior by a complex lithiated graphitic system,” Krstic said. “Surprisingly, we find that the presence of oxygen in the surface plays the key role in the bonding of deuterium, while lithium’s main role is to bring the oxygen to the surface. Deuterium atoms preferentially bind with oxygen and carbon-oxygen when there is a comparable amount of oxygen to lithium at the surface. That finding well matches a number of controversial experimental results obtained within the last decade.”

Read more: Research on lithium coatings unlocks mystery surrounding the harnessing of fusion energy — phys.org.

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