Innovative Machining of Refractory Metals

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


The global demand for electric power is on the increase. It is estimated that this accretion is at 3.1%. The increased awareness of the detrimental effects of climate change makes it paramount to produce electricity from sustainable sources. Nuclear fusion is a promising alternative in realising clean, safe and abundant electricity.

The realisation of nuclear fusion requires components manufactured from metals not usually employed in other sectors. These metals, which are refractory by nature, are plasma facing components (PFCs) and are suitable for use in fusion reactors which are expectedly subjected to extremely high temperatures. It is widely agreed that a major challenge in realising fusion energy is the design and manufacture of these metals. Specifically, PFCs are must be capable of withstanding high heat loads, maintain structural integrity, resist neutron irradiation and provide minimal impurities to the fusion plasma. Tungsten, a refractory metal, is a notable candidate material for use in reactors as a PFC.

The manufacture of components with complex geometries is crucial for scaling fusion power plants and optimising their designs. Due to their mechanical properties, Tungsten and other refractory metals are difficult to manufacture. In machining operations, short tool life, poor surface integrity and low productivity often leads to extremely high manufacturing costs. From an economic view point, these challenges inhibit the commercial production of parts from these difficult-to-manufacture metals.

This project aims to improve the machinability of Tungsten through an in-depth understanding of its machining characteristics. This will ultimately lead to improvement in the manufacturing of parts from this metal. The project will include computational modelling, cutting tool design, introduction of new cooling and lubricating systems, sensors network and industry 4.0 control system among others.

Findings from this research will make significant impact in the nuclear industry. Improvements in the machining of Tungsten will contribute to the realisation of fusion power plants and, thus, bring the world closer to achieving zero emissions from electricity production.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513155/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2297674 Studentship EP/R513155/1 25/11/2019 23/05/2023 Samuel OMOLE