General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) has been awarded a three-year contract from the US Department of Energy Office of Science to develop a scalable, cost-competitive path to manufacture silicon carbide and SiC composite foam materials for advanced fusion power plants.

“SiC and SiC foam will provide significant advantages in both efficiency and longevity to support fusion power plant applications,” stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “Foam made of SiC is a highly effective insulator that prevents unwanted heat transfer and is extremely resistant to radiation compared with other insulating materials that degrade over time. Our … manufacturing method allows us to finely control the properties of the material and provides a cost-effective approach for the fabrication of SiC foam specifically engineered for the fusion environment.”

GA-EMS is already developing other high temperature ceramic-based composites, and will employ its ceramic fabrication and fusion test facilities to demonstrate the path toward manufacturing first-of-kind SiC and SiC foam materials.

“We are developing the path forward to customise and test our SiC materials and composites at the dimensions, scale, and performance metrics required for application to fission and magnetic fusion programmes in support of future nuclear power plants” commented Christina Back, vice president of GA-EMS Nuclear Technologies and Materials.

General Atomics announced its concept for a fully integrated fusion pilot plant in October 2022. The concept utilises SiC–based materials that can withstand the intense conditions within a high-power fusion device.