Friday, February 22, 2013

Lockheed's Skunk Works promises fusion power in four years (LK)

The joke at the National Laboratories is that fusion has been "30 years away" for the last sixty years.
If the folks at Lockheed are correct there are going to be a lot of long faces at Sandia, Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore.
Here's the list of the world's Top500 supercomputer sites, I'm hoping one of them comes on the market should the national labs not be the first to crack the fusion nut.

Lockheed's Skunk Works promises fusion power in four years
Until someone figures out a way to manufacture antimatter, fusion is by far the cleanest and most abundant source of power we can hope to harvest. We've known this for a long time, but fusion is hard, and it's expensive to build the giant lasers or toroidal plasma containment systems that are needed to get it to work. By most estimates, we're something like 40 years away from an operational fusion power plant.

"Most estimates" do not, apparently, include research being done at Lockheed Martin's secretive advanced development center, Skunk Works. At Google's Solve For X, Charles Chase describes what his team has been working on: a trailer-sized fusion power plant that turns cheap and plentiful hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) into helium plus enough energy to power a small city. It's safe, it's clean, and Lockheed is promising an operational unit by 2017 with assembly line production to follow, enabling everything from unlimited fresh water to engines that take spacecraft to Mars in one month instead of six.

Lockheed's fusion power plant uses radio energy to heat deuterium gas inside tightly controlled magnetic fields, creating a very high temperature plasma that's much more stable and well confined than you'd find in something like a tokamak....MORE