Thermal Finite Element Analysis of Ceramic/Metal Joining for Fusion Using X-ray Tomography Data

  • Llion Evans

    Student thesis: Phd


    A key challenge facing the nuclear fusion community is how to design a reactor that will operate in environmental conditions not easily reproducible in the laboratory for materials testing. Finite element analysis (FEA), commonly used to predict components' performance, typically uses idealised geometries. An emerging technique shown to have improved accuracy is image based finite element modelling (IBFEM). This involves converting a three dimensional image (such as from X ray tomography) into an FEA mesh. A main advantage of IBFEM is that models include micro structural and non idealised manufacturing features. The aim of this work was to investigate the thermal performance of a CFC Cu divertor monoblock, a carbon fibre composite (CFC) tile joined through its centre to a CuCrZr pipe with a Cu interlayer. As a plasma facing component located where thermal flux in the reactor is at its highest, one of its primary functions is to extract heat by active cooling. Therefore, characterisation of its thermal performance is vital.Investigation of the thermal performance of CFC Cu joining methods by laser flash analysis and X ray tomography showed a strong correlation between micro structures at the material interface and a reduction in thermal conductivity. Therefore, this problem leant itself well to be investigated further by IBFEM. However, because these high resolution models require such large numbers of elements, commercial FEA software could not be used. This served as motivation to develop parallel software capable of performing the necessary transient thermal simulations. The resultant code was shown to scale well with increasing problem sizes and a simulation with 137 million elements was successfully completed using 4096 cores. In comparison with a low resolution IBFEM and traditional FEA simulations it was demonstrated to provide additional accuracy.IBFEM was used to simulate a divertor monoblock mock up, where it was found that a region of delamination existed on the CFC Cu interface. Predictions showed that if this was aligned unfavourably it would increase thermal gradients across the component thus reducing lifespan. As this was a feature introduced in manufacturing it would not have been accounted for without IBFEM.The technique developed in this work has broad engineering applications. It could be used similarly to accurately model components in conditions unfeasible to produce in the laboratory, to assist in research and development of component manufacturing or to verify commercial components against manufacturers' claims.
    Date of Award31 Dec 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorPaul Mummery (Supervisor)


    • FEM
    • ITER
    • finite element analysis
    • FEA
    • image-based
    • high performance computing
    • open source
    • HPC
    • supercomputer
    • tokamak
    • thermal analysis
    • divertor
    • parallel computation
    • direct casting
    • thermal conductivity
    • laser flash
    • fusion
    • CT
    • 3D imaging
    • X-ray tomography
    • CFC
    • carbon fibre composites
    • joining
    • copper
    • Cu

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