Lockheed is up to something, and that something may be a game-changer in the energy field – but then, that something has been going to be a game-changer for a while now. Still, it’s interesting. Excerpt:
Lockheed Martin has quietly obtained a patent associated with its design for a potentially revolutionary compact fusion reactor, or CFR. If this project has been progressing on schedule, the company could debut a prototype system that size of shipping container, but capable of powering a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier or 80,000 homes, sometime in the next year or so.
The patent, for a portion of the confinement system, or embodiment, is dated Feb. 15, 2018. The Maryland-headquartered defense contractor had filed a provisional claim on April 3, 2013 and a formal application nearly a year later. Our good friend Stephen Trimble, chief of Flightglobal’s Americas Bureau, subsequently spotted it and Tweeted out its basic details.
In 2014, the company also made a splash by announcing they were working on the device at all and that it was the responsibility of its Skunk Works advanced projects office in Palmdale, California. At the time, Dr. Thomas McGuire, head of the Skunk Works’ Compact Fusion Project, said the goal was to have a working reactor in five years and production worthy design within 10.
Here’s the kicker:
If the system works, it’s hard to underscore just how dramatically it could change not just the future of warfare, but the basic nature of human existence. Running on approximately 25 pounds of fuel – a mixture of hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium – Lockheed Martin estimated the notional reactor would be able to run for an entire year without stopping. The device would be able to generate a constant 100 megawatts of power during that period.
One might suspect there will be a lot of Luddite NIMBYing around these new fusion reactors being placed in settled areas, should they prove possible. But if one of these reactors could provide power for 100,000 people, then a few of them spotted around a major city could decentralize power grids and revolutionize the way we deliver electricity to people – making it cleaner and cheaper than it’s ever been.
I’ve long been skeptical of these fusion reactor claims. It seems a practical fusion reactor is always just a few more years away. But if it ever does happen – then, yes, it will dramatically change the nature of human existence. For the better. And in this case, it’s a business, not the government, that may have made the breakthrough.