Lockheed Martin announced that the Skunk Works has produced viable fusion technology and is looking for partners. “McGuire said the company had several patents pending for the work and was looking for partners in academia, industry and among government laboratories to advance the work.”
Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.
Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire told reporters.
In a statement, the company, the Pentagon’s largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years.
If the company’s predictions are accurate the development will transform almost every aspect of civilization. Back in 2013 Kelsey Atherton at Popular Science described the project in its earlier stages. “Much smaller than traditional fusion attempts, the compact fusion reactor uses a cylinder, not a ring, which makes for a stronger magnetic containment field and leaves fewer points where the energy could escape. This could make for a reactor that’s small enough for a truck to transport and still robust enough to generate power for 100,000 homes. Lockheed hopes to have a test model available by 2017, and scale up to regular production by 2022.”
The article also hints at the power density of the Lockheed fusion design. Gizmodo has more details and a diagram comparing the giant Tokamak type with its the Lockheed design. Unlike older designs, the proposed new model is scalable. Dr. Thomas McGuire said, “[The traditional tokamak designes] can only hold so much plasma, and we call that the beta limit. [Their plasma ratio is] 5% or so of the confining pressure. [...] We should be able to go to 100% or beyond.”
Skunk Works is convinced that their system—which will be the size of a jet engine—will be able to power everything, from spaceships to airplanes to vessels—and of course scale up to a much larger size…
[in 5 years] hey expect to have a fully operative model ready to go into full-scale production, capable of generating 100MW—enough to power a large cargo ship or a 80,000-home city—and measure 23 x 42 feet, so you “could put it on a semi-trailer, similar to a small gas turbine, put it on a pad, hook it up and can be running in a few weeks.”
But before you get too excited its important to note who’s going to potentially lose. The petrochemical industry. Al Gore and his Green Lobby. The oil producing states of the Middle East. The Narrative.
While most of the attention will be focused on the “non-fossil fuel” aspect of fusion development, Lockheed Martin appears to understand its most revolutionary aspect. It’s small and empowering. A glance at the diagram shows that the associated inputs still have to come from substantial auxiliary structures. It needs “neutral beam injectors” and some way to power and cool its superconducting magnets and carry away the resulting energy from the reaction.
All the same, if its promise is fulfilled, mankind will have its first sci-fi, dilithium-crystal modulated, flying-car capable, fusion engine. That spells f-r-e-e-d-o-m. All we need now is robots, a 3-D printing manufacturing machine, a ray gun and off we go. It basically recreates everything central planners hate: the modern equivalent of a horse, six-gun and a wide-open frontier. Even your own robotic sidekick. “I’m back in the saddle agin’.” The stars, my destination.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the 21st century promises to raise the curtain on the affinity group. The individual, the small, interest focused group will be viable in the age of disintermediated knowledge and productivity. The giant, bureaucratic Marxist hive of the 20th century is not the wave of the future.
So-- About That Fusion Deal--
Lockheed-Martin apparently believes they are on the cusp of a breakthrough when it comes to nuclear fusion. Color me skeptical, but very interested.
Fusion is what powers the sun, of course. It also brings the promise of (relatively) clean nuclear energy, since the reaction products are not dangerous. There remains radiation (and lots of it!) emitted during operation, and activation of materials in the reactor still occurs, but the production of radioactive isotopes as a consequence of the consumption of the fuel does not occur. For this reason it is a dramatically superior nuclear process, but for one problem: it's damn hard to make happen, and thus obtaining more energy out, in commercially-viable amounts, than you put in has not been achieved.
It has always been "10 years" away from viability. It was 50 years ago, 40, 30, 20 and now. The reason for this is that creating the conditions under which fusion takes place requires an environment of extreme heat and pressure, and that takes energy to achieve. You need to somehow not lose that energy put in to the environment or the reaction you get provides insufficient payback on your energy investment for your fusion reactor to make economic (and operational) sense.
I note that despite the alleged crowing if you read carefully you will find that Lockheed-Martin is not claiming that they have achieved an energy surplus, say much less a large one. But they think they are on the path to do so.
If true, this would be revolutionary -- both in terms of the economic and geopolitical impacts. Specifically, it marks the end of the "dig it out of the ground" oil economy as the only means of obtaining liquid hydrocarbons (you can make them from any carbon source, given available energy) and it further means that fresh water deficits can be cured, since there is no shortage (anywhere), nor will there ever be, of sea water. If.