Case Studies

Dunlop Aerospace
Demands of fusion projects has resulted in many technological and manufacturing benefits

John Whelan, Director, Dunlop Aerospace

Dunlop Aerospace manufactures carbon-carbon composite materials (C-C) primarily for use as friction discs in aircraft brakes but also for non-aviation friction applications including train brakes, brakes and clutches for Formula 1 and other racing applications. Since the mid 1980′s, Dunlop Aerospace has worked closely with fusion projects in Europe and North America to develop and manufacture carbon-carbon composites.

C-C has been supplied for plasma facing components for first wall and divertor applications where the properties required are similar to those needed in aircraft friction, namely the ability to transfer large heat fluxes, retention of strength at elevated temperatures and low density. The composites have been manufactured as fusion tiles, high temperature furnace furniture, furnace heating elements and heat sinks for satellite electronic systems.

“The commercial challenge of competitive tendering for contracts and meeting the demands of fusion has resulted in many benefits. Changes in production engineering practice have lead to increased efficiency and reduced costs across our core business products. Meeting the demands on materials performance has given an improved understanding of how changes to the production process affect our final product. New materials with improved thermal properties have been developed to meet the challenges presented by next generation of fusion machines such as ITER and we look forward to a continued association with fusion in the future,” John Whelan, Director, Dunlop Aerospace.

For further information on Dunlop Aerospace please visit:

AMEC (formerly NNC)lamec
Early collaboration with fusion scientists allowed us to identify the potential benefits of HIP bonding technology in high heat flux applications.

Alain Chevalier, Director of Reactor New Build, AMEC

Collaboration by fusion scientists and engineers at NNC (which became part of AMEC in 2006), one of the UK’s leading independent nuclear services suppliers, has led to the development of part and full-scale prototype components for the plasma facing first wall of ITER.

Since 1996, the company has been developing the technology needed to produce first wall components. Key to this development has been the use of HIP (Hot Iso-static Pressing) to bond the stainless steel, copper alloy and beryllium metals present. To advance the HIP bonding technology extensive experiments and analysis have been performed as part of the design process, before producing the prototype components.

The results of the heat flux tests show that the beryllium tiles can withstand in excess of 1.5MW.m-2 for 1000 cycles, exceeding the ITER requirement of 0.5MW.m-2 for the first wall. However, the importance of rigorous process controls is clear in order to achieve the consistent high quality of bonding required for ITER.

Following this success, AMEC is now to bond beryllium tiles to a larger full scale prototype panel produced in association with EFDA, the organisation leading European work on ITER. Apart from its use in producing components for ITER, the HIP bonding technology has proven useful in other applications. One example is the invention of a copper bonded steam generator for use in a sodium cooled fast reactor. Substantial studies and several prototype components have now been completed in support of this spin-off technology.

For further information on AMEC please visit:

Bentham InstrumentsBenthamLogo
CCFE Diagnostic Challenge Drives New Product Development
We’ve learnt a lot from working with the CCFE. Achieving high uniformity and high luminosity across a large window without it being expensive and over-large is quite a technical achievement,

Mike Clark, Sales Director, Bentham Instruments.

The search for a calibration light source for MAST optical diagnostics has led UK company Bentham Instruments to expand its product range and win new business as a result. The project resulted in the development of the Bentham Instruments ULS300, a uniform light source integrating-sphere providing variable luminance at constant colour temperature along with the uniformity needed to calibrate wide-angle optics.

Neil Conway, Fusion Research Physicist at Culham has been working with Mike Clark at Bentham Instruments to develop the new integrating-sphere source. “The ULS300 gives CCFE researchers a compact light source with excellent uniformity and as such it is a significant improvement on other techniques for calibrating our wide angle optics” explains Neil, “and we can further improve the uniformity by modifying the optical fibre bundles so that they launch light into the sphere obliquely.” Mike Clark and his team are currently working on the refinement.

The ULS300 is a highly specialist instrument but we’ve already sold several to non-fusion customers and have prospects from around the world for further sales,” Mike Clark noted.

For further information visit


Laplacian – Laplacian Gets to the Root of the Problem
It is rare to find in one place the combination of engineering expertise and technical skills we have access to in CCFE’s Special Techniques Group

Peter Aptaker, Managing Director, Laplacian Ltd.

Magnet resonance imaging specialist, Laplacian Ltd, has developed a luggable scanner for conducting resonance imaging of tree trunks subjected to drought and deluge conditions, as part of a tree physiology project at the University of Surrey. Developed with the assistance of Fusion’s technical support package, the scanner can be used on tree trunks up to 200  mm diameter and provides complete imaging of the trunk.

According to Peter Aptaker, Managing Director of Laplacian, the balancing of the  customers  imaging requirement and portability posed many huge challenges.  The tree scanner is the first of its kind where carbon fibre composites are being used to hold the magnets in place, rather than heavier steel plates, in an effort to keep the scanner’s weight to under 55 kg,

Briefly, the MRI scanner comprises two arms which “hug” the tree, each containing a unique array of magnet pieces and  gradient windings.  As a Culham Innovation Centre-based company, Laplacian has used the technical support package to tap into the skills of the CCFE’s Special Techniques Group for  manufacture of the magnetic gradient windings and the final machining of the MRI unit.

“It is rare to find in one place the combination of engineering expertise and technical skills we have access to in CCFE’s Special Techniques Group. Their ability to help with the milling and machining of gradients has been important in us successfully meeting the technical and physical requirements of the tree scanner,” said Peter Aptaker.

For more information please contact Peter Aptaker on 01865 408348 or email or visit

Reaction Engines -Wins Euro 1 million contract with the European Space Agencyrel_logo_text
Over the years the CCFE’s Technical Support Package has allowed us to build up considerable expertise within REL on brazing and tube manipulation techniques. It is still an important part of our development work

Alan Bond, Managing Director, Reaction Engines.

Culham Innovation Centre-based Reaction Engines Ltd (REL) has been awarded a Euro 1 million contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to demonstrate the core technologies for the SABRE air-breathing rocket engine that will eventually power the SKYLON spaceplane. The company will build on its knowledge acquired through CCFE’s technical support package to develop the engine’s pre-cooler.

The SKYLON spaceplane is a reusable spaceplane that can take off from a conventional aircraft runway, carry over twelve tonnes to orbit and then return to land on the same runway.

Alan Bond, Managing Director of REL, said: “Traditional throw-away rockets costing more than a $100 million per launch are a drag on the growth of this market. The Holy Grail to transform the economics of getting into space is to use a truly reusable spaceplane capable of taking off from an airport and climbing directly into space, delivering its satellite payload and automatically returning safely to Earth.

“Years of planning and research by REL on the SKYLON vehicle and its unique SABRE engine mean that we have an inside track on realising this goal. SKYLON could reduce the cost of getting into space by a factor of ten and improve the reliability by a thousand.”

The two and half year demonstration programme has the objective of removing all the outstanding technical concerns on the SABRE engine. This will pave the way to a full engine development programme as part of the overall development of SKYLON.

The SABRE is a hybrid engine that can “breathe” air when in the atmosphere, like a jet engine, and become a rocket engine when in space. In air-breathing mode air is first cooled by a revolutionary heat exchanger pre-cooler before being compressed and fed to the rocket engine to be burned with hydrogen fuel. When in rocket mode the hydrogen is burnt with liquid oxygen.

The key technical challenge for REL is to take the pre-cooler from the laboratory to the industrial scale for testing on the company’s Viper B9 engine test facility at Culham.  It will produce 26 heat exchange modules over the next 12 months.

“Over the years the CCFE’s Technical Support Package has allowed us to build up considerable expertise within REL on brazing and tube manipulation techniques. It is still an important part of our development work. Recently we’ve used it to assist us with wind tunnel diagnostics data acquisition and, all being well, it will enable us to overcome any technical problems we may encounter as we scale up and test the pre-cooler during the course of the demonstration programme,” said Alan Bond.

For more information please contact Alan Bond on 01865 408314 or email or visit


AMR -Testing time for NMR machines
It’s good to work with CCFE engineers who understand what you are trying to achieve and feel able to suggest improvements. Moreover the fact that these skills and experience are concentrated in one place, just down the corridor, has significant practical and time saving benefits

Tim Benson, Founder, Advanced Magnetics Resonance Ltd.

Characterising the quality of the magnetic field of a NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) machine, and related Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is a complex and often expensive process. Not for much longer, however, if the NMR test equipment being developed by AMR Ltd, with the assistance of CCFE’s technical support package, is successful.

AMR is a start-up company based in the Culham Innovation Centre. Tim Benson, founder of AMR, has over ten years’ experience in magnetic resonance equipment design and analysis. An important part of AMR’s business is providing consultancy to food companies, and the offshore and petrochemical industries, where the quality and stability of the magnetic field are critical to clear imaging of samples. “If companies are to make the most of using NMR analysis techniques, there is a need for test equipment that is more accurate than existing methods, yet cost-effective and simpler to operate,” said Tim Benson.

The AMR test machine comprises a NMR spectrometer and probes, measuring signals from a test program. Tim has used the CCFE’s technical support package to assist in the fabrication of  the spectrometer case and probes. “It’s good to work with CCFE engineers who understand what you are trying to achieve and feel able to suggest improvements. Moreover the fact that these skills and experience are concentrated in one place, just down the corridor, has significant practical and time saving benefits – you’re not constantly having to travel to different places to get the help you need,” he said.

For more information contact Tim Benson on 01865 408375 or e-mail:

Oxis Energy – Scales Up Battery TechnologyBasic RGB
Scaling up the Li-S battery technology is our biggest challenge so far. We need to improve both battery performance and consistency.  By having the TSP we know that if we do run into any mechanical or equipment problems then we can rely on the expertise of the CCFE’s Special Techniques Group to assist us

Gleb Ivanov, Managing Director, Oxis Energy.

Culham Innovation Centre based, Oxis Energy Ltd has been awarded a Technology Strategy Board grant to show its Lithium-Sulphide battery technology can be successfully scaled up to meet the performance vs cost criteria needed in industrial applications.

Lithium-Sulphide batteries developed by Oxis Energy offer high capacity and battery stability over the cycle life, across a broad temperature range from room temperature up to 140°C.

Unlike conventional Lithium-based batteries which pose a potential fire risk when recharged, changes in the Li-S chemistry developed by Oxis Energy prevent this happening during recharge. As a result, the low-weight rechargeable battery technology has significant market potential in industrial and consumer applications.

The Technology Strategy Board grant awarded to Oxis Energy, and its project partners ABSL Power Solutions and Oxford University Materials Department, will enable the company to scale up the battery technology ahead of field trials.

Oxis Energy uses the CCFE’s technical support package (TSP) to assist with technical problems. In the past the TSP has been used to develop test machines and assist in the installation of new machines for electrode prototype production.

Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is an executive non-departmental public body (NDPB), established by the Government in 2007 and sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Web site:

For further information please call Gleb Ivanov on 01865 408339 or email or visit: