MRS Bulletin

High-Performance Computing for Materials Design to Advance Energy Science

High-Performance Computing for Materials Design to Advance Energy Science

Fusion materials modeling: Challenges and opportunities

B.D. Wirtha1, K. Nordlunda2, D.G. Whytea3 and D. Xua4

a1 University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA;

a2 University of Helsinki, Finland;

a3 MIT Plasma Science & Fusion Center, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA;

a4 University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1730, USA;


The plasma facing components, first wall, and blanket systems of future tokamak-based fusion power plants arguably represent the single greatest materials engineering challenge of all time. Indeed, the United States National Academy of Engineering has recently ranked the quest for fusion as one of the top grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. These challenges are even more pronounced by the lack of experimental testing facilities that replicate the extreme operating environment involving simultaneous high heat and particle fluxes, large time-varying stresses, corrosive chemical environments, and large fluxes of 14-MeV peaked fusion neutrons. Fortunately, recent innovations in computational modeling techniques, increasingly powerful high-performance and massively parallel computing platforms, and improved analytical experimental characterization tools provide the means to develop self-consistent, experimentally validated models of materials performance and degradation in the fusion energy environment. This article will describe the challenges associated with modeling the performance of plasma facing component and structural materials in a fusion materials environment, the opportunities to utilize high-performance computing, and two examples of recent progress.