Rule Five Fusion Friday

Housekeeping note:  In a few moments, I will leave civilization behind for a few days as loyal sidekick Rat and I will be off to the wilds of Grand County, Colorado, there to do battle with antlered ungulates.  Some placeholder totty is scheduled to hold your attention until I return.

Now, with that out of the way:  It seems the U.S. Navy has applied for a patent on a fusion reactor small enough to power small ships and even aircraft.  If this is a real thing, it’s a real big thing, or as daffy old Groper Joe Biden would say, a big fucking deal.  Excerpt:

The War Zone has been reporting on Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works work to create a game-changing compact fusion reactor. The elite aerospace design unit has been constructing a new, more powerful experimental reactor as recently as July 2019. 

Aside from Lockheed Martin, several private firms have been developing their own compact fusion reactors in recent years, and the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences has claimed to have made significant progress in developing fusion reactors that could one day be capable of producing revolutionary levels of energy.

While Lockheed Martin’s CFR designs have garnered quite a bit of media attention and internet buzz in recent years, it appears one of the Skunk Works’ major clients is also hard at work in this field. The U.S. Navy has filed a potentially revolutionary patent application for a radical new compact fusion reactor that claims to improve upon the shortcomings of the Skunk Works CFR, and judging from the identity of the reactor’s inventor, it’s sure to raise eyebrows in the scientific community.

This latest design is the brainchild of the elusive Salvatore Cezar Pais, the inventor of the Navy’s bizarre and controversial room temperature superconductors, high energy electromagnetic field generators, and sci-fi-sounding propulsion technologies that The War Zone has previously reported on. The patent for Pais’ “Plasma Compression Fusion Device” was applied for on March 22, 2018, and was just published on September 26, 2019. The claim states, in part:

At present there are few envisioned fusion reactors/devices that come in a small, compact package (ranging from 0.3 to 2 meters in diameter) and typically they use different versions of plasma magnetic confinement. Three such devices are the Lockheed Martin (LM) Skunk Works Compact Fusion Reactor (LM-CFR) , the EMC2 Polywell fusion concept, and the Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration (PFRC) machine. […] These devices feature short plasma confinement times, possible plasma instabilities with the scaling of size, and it is questionable whether they have the ability of achieving the break – even fusion condition, let alone a self-sustained plasma burn leading to ignition.”

Wow.  WOW.  Forget for a moment whether or not we’re going to buy into this being real, and just imagine for a moment the implications of it being real, and imagine beyond just the shutting up of the climate scolds, which would be a pleasant enough outcome.

Now I’m not sure about the feasibility of powering vehicles or aircraft with one of these, size notwithstanding; like fission reactors, fusion reactors provide useful power through heat, by boiling water to turn a steam turbine to generate electricity.  (That’s almost certainly a gross oversimplification, but what the hell.)  That works in a power plant or a ship; in an airplane, not so much.

But you know, that still works.  We could continue to run airplanes and autos on fossil fuels.  The climate scolds would continue to go RHEEEEEEE, of course, but we can ignore that.  The simple fact is this:  A practical fusion reactor design would literally change everything.  Energy would be cheap and unlimited; cheaper than it is now, unlimited as it is not now.

Modern technological societies depend on energy.  Cheap, abundant energy yields a strong economy.  The cheaper and more abundant energy is, the better conditions are for a robust economy.

And this design – if it’s real – could deliver power to places where it’s difficult to do so now.   It could relieve remote communities of the need for generators or long stretches of power lines.  Small towns could run on a small tokamak that would fit in a garden shed.  And better still, a factory could buy its own reactor and obviate the need to be tied to an inefficient government-granted monopoly for power delivery.  The possibilities are endless.

I’m not sure if this is a real thing.  But it would be really cool if it was.

But enough of that for now.  The bloodwind calls.  It’s time to hunt.  See you all a week from Monday!