Molybdenum (Mo) is considered a plasma facing material alternative to tungsten (W) for manufacturing the divertor armours of International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Transient thermal loads of high energy occurring in a tokamak during the service life have been simulated through a single laser pulse delivered by a Nd:YAG/Glass laser, and the effects have then been examined through scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observations. An erosion crater forms in correspondence with the laser spot due to the vaporization and melting of the metal, while all around a network of cracks induced by thermal stresses is observed. The findings have been compared to results of similar experiments on W and literature data. The morphology of the crater and the surrounding area is different from that of W: the crater is larger and shallower in the case of Mo, while its walls are characterized by long filaments, not observed in W, because the lower viscosity and surface tension of Mo allow an easier flow of the liquid metal. Most importantly, the volume of Mo ablated from the surface by the single laser pulse is about ten times that of W. This critical aspect is of particular relevance and leads us to conclude that W remains the best solution for manufacturing the armours of the ITER divertor.
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