Inside ITER, the international tokamak nuclear fusion reactor, materials and systems will be exposed to a harsh environment. Radioactivity levels near or inside the vacuum vessel can be high enough to prevent conventional electronic imaging systems from functioning properly, possibly leading to complete failure. An equally important issue for supporting inspections and maintenance tasks is the scarcely available space for embarked cameras and their associated cabling, which limits the use of more bulky (sometimes even shielded) radiation tolerant solutions.
To solve this issue, Fusion for Energy (F4E) – the European Union’s organisation, responsible for providing Europe’s contribution to ITER – is developing a miniature radiation hard camera that can withstand unprecedented levels of radiation.
The actual camera is developed jointly by three research laboratories with a proven track record in radiation hardening: the Laboratoire Hubert Curien (University of Saint-Etienne) is responsible for the optical systems, CEA DAM elaborates the illumination systems and ISAE-SUPAERO is in charge of the image sensor design. The whole development is managed by Oxford Technologies Limited (OTL, UK).
Each subsystem has been manufactured, and they are currently being characterised in preparation of the radiation hardness evaluation campaign that will be led by SCK-CEN (Belgium) in the following months.
For the ISAE-SUPAERO image sensor research team, it represents a unique opportunity to apply its expertise in radiation hardening of CMOS image sensors to a very demanding application and to contribute to a very exciting large scale international project.