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Russian Coil for ITER

    A model of a central superconducting solenoid has been successfully proved in dynamical experiments in Japan. The superconducting coil to be inserted into the solenoid is under way in Russia. One ton of the Nb3Sn superconducting material was already reported to have been produced at the Bochvar All-Russian Research Institute of Inorganic Materials (BARRIIM). The assistant director of the BARRIIM, a member of the International Technical Advisory Committee on ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) Alexander Shikov answered a number of questions about the current state of the process and explained that a spiral superconducting current-carrying Nb3Sn element designed for the coil is to be inserted into the solenoid after the corresponding thermal treatment.

    - Not so long ago our institute received an order for the delivery of 1 ton of Nb3Sn superconductor for the coil-insertion in accordance with the ITER project. This amount was produced at the experimental and industrial base of our institute 2 years ago. After that the material was transfered to the All-Russian Research Institute of Cable Industry (ARRICI), Moscow, where the preparation was proceeded by A.Rychagov and A.Taran under V.Sytnikov. The superconductor was twisted in a tight plait and pulled into a titanium tube with the diameter of 42.7 mm and longer than 100 m. The current-carrying conductor was subsequently curved in a helicoidal spiral and transfered to the Yefremov Research Institute of Electrical and Physical Equipment (YRIEPE), Saint Petersburg, for the coil to be produced. It is worth mentioning how large is the size of the coil having 5 m height and approximately 2 m in diameter.

    So, for the past 2 years we have worked very hard being in charge of creating equipment assigned for the thermal treatment of this coil-insertion. To begin with, we had no furnace of a needed size for precise conditions to be maintained in an uninterrupted cycle for more than 20 days long during the thermal treatment. The unique furnace was developed at the experimental base of the YRIEPE itself. The technical instructions were elaborated by the YRIEPE and the BARRIIM in collaboration. The BARRIIM, being in charge of the thermal treatment process, elaborated and provided all so called thermal treatment regulations.

    Three vital requirements provided the great challenge of the task: first, it was necessary to attain a large voluum of vacuum to within 0.0005 torr; second, a multi-stepped regime of thermal treatment was needed, with possible temperature deviations less than 5 degrees Centigrade throughout the voluum; third, the regime was to be observed round-the-clock for 22 days long. The last requirement was not only a technical problem, but might also be an organization failure: water, electric power were to be fed continuously, neither cutting off in feeding was permittable. Other non-regular situations were out of question either. The stepped thermal annealing was to be applied in order to remove gases occuring in vacuum while treating the current-carrying element of the coil. An additional challenge was connected with the fact that, on the one hand, the spiral was to be held in vacuum and, on the other hand, it was necessary to remove impurities with the help of gaseous helium flowing inside the tube pumped out. By common efforts the furnace was constructed on the base of the YRIEPE, the scheme of spiral arrangement was worked out and substantiated, the whole control of the process being effected by means of a computer. First tests have been carried out using a prototype, a so called DUMI spiral involving copper instead of superconductor that is too much expensive to take any risks (it costs some 1000 $/kg). At the ARRICI a copper plait was twisted up, which contained 1152 wires, and was pulled up into a titanium tube. It was for the first time that using titanium tubes to provide an outer casing for protection of a current-carrying element was suggested by us. Titanium is of special interest when cooling till helium temperatures because it compresses less as compared to steel or other materials; thus, its deforming effect on the superconductor is not so great. This DUMI spiral was undergone to the whole technological chain: a tube was twisted in a spiral, the spiral was put into the furnace to be treated thermally. In the end the spiral was unloaded from the furnace.

    After all the procedures having been completed successfully, with the required temperature and vacuum regimes maintained in the furnace, the annealing of the regular coil-insertion was initiated at the end of the December. Any failure was out of permittance: an extra-expensive coil was to be unique. The specialists from the BARRIIM were leaving for Saint Petersburg in a shifting regime. To control the fundamental parameters (i.e. critical current, wastes, etc.) there existed special witness specimens placed along the whole perimeter of the spiral: short wire duplicating the superconductive material of the spiral.

    And finally, as short ago as January 17, the furnace was unloaded. The greatest anxiety was due to possible formation of cracks in the casing material. But the very first test under the pressure of helium which was pumped up inside the casing showed the casing to remain totally hermetic.

    Today I am so glad to tell that the complex trials of witness specimens have been completed and the results are ready to be sent off to the ITER headquarters to Japan. The superconductor properties have been shown not only to correspond to the sample ones in every aspect but also to have certain safety margin as compared to them. It is worth mentioning also that thermal treatment of the coil-insertion was performed after a short sample of a current-carrying element had been modelled and tested in Switzerland at the SULTAN equipment. Our superconductors posessed all required parameters, in particular, the capability needed to carry the current, the absence of damages, and showed persistent properties under twisting.

    By the present moment, the current-carrying element has been completely covered by insulating material. The element is going to be placed into a solid steel case, that has been produced at the Izhorsk works, to be compounded and furnished with all required supply leads. After having performed the control trials, the coil-insertion will be sent to Japan by a special international flight at the end of February or at the beginning of March.

    All the specialists to have participated in the coil-insertion production and those to perform its testing are going to meet in Saint Petersburg at the large consultation on March 1/2. The purpose of the meeting is to co-ordinate a final testing program of the coil inserted in the central solenoid. Thus, the collective 10-year hard work of the three Russian institutes - BARRIIM, ARRICI, YRIEPE - and their colleagues from other scientific and technological branches is anticipated to come to its successful end.

    At the BARRIIM the project has been under laboratory head A.Vorobiova's and my guidance; the most active efforts in its elaboration have been made by V.Pantsyrny, A.Silaev, and Dergunova's group. The great part taken by our young specialists - K.Mareev, I.Abdyukhanov, and I.Siniyn n - is worth mentioning as well, and I do this with pleasure. On behalf of Saint Petersburg all the current guidance was realised by O.Filatov, ing g at the same time the manager of the ITER project in Russia and the assistant director of the YRIEPE, and by V.Beliakov. Moreover, S.Egorov, I.Rodin, and V.Trofimov participated deeply in the work. They worked in the twenty-four-hour shifting regime having sometimes planning meetings by telephone at nights especially when changing temrature e regimes. By the way, an hour before the New Year approach O.Filatov and V.Beliakov came to congratulate operators on duty at the working furnace and I wished them a happy New Year by telephone from Moscow.

    The thermal treatment process which began in 2000 and finished in 2001 is of great symbolic significance: the large-scale operations dealing with superconductivity that began in the past century are to be proceeded in the century to come. Granting that the decision on the ITER construction is taken what is the hope of all project members, we can aspire at the delivery of more than 240 tons of the (Nb-Ti alloy/Nb3Sn compound)-based Russian superconductors. A number of home industrial works have already begun preparing for output of these materials.

    Advanced Technologies, Superconductors, Nanotubes, Fullerans

    Translated by Nataliya Lipunova


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