Engineers at Fusion for Energy (F4E), Oxford Technologies in the UK and the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven in Belgium have developed an electronic chip that cab perform in a radiation environment and which could serve as a prototype for the development of other electronics to be deployed in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) under construction in France, Iter said.

The chip, which has been in development for five years, converts analogue data picked up by sensors to a digital format and transmits the information through a single wire. The chip has been irradiated at the SCK-CEN research centre in Belgium and the results are promising, Iter said. Remote handling operations in Iter will rely on sensors capable of transmitting information about the many interconnected tools, manipulators and cranes responsible for maintenance and repairs.

Receiving real-time data on temperature, pressure and position will be important to operating the equipment in limited space with "millimetric accuracy", Iter said. Other considerations for the design of these small but crucial components include exposure to radioactivity, limited space for interconnecting wire between the sensors, and the need for a common "language" for sensors located in different parts of the machine.