Science & Nature

Is Lockheed Martin's new Fusion Reactor the answer to all of our problems?

This is an invention that could change civilization as we know it

This is an invention that could change civilization as we know it: A compact fusion reactor developed by Skunk Works, the stealth experimental technology division of Lockheed Martin. It’s the size of a jet engine and it can power airplanes, spaceships, and cities. Skunk Works claims it will be operative in 10 years.

Aviation Week had exclusive access to their secret laboratories and talked to Dr. Thomas McGuire, the leader of Skunk Work’s Revolutionary Technology division. And revolutionary it is, indeed: Instead of using the same design that everyone else is using—the Soviet-derived tokamak, a torus in which magnetic fields confine the fusion reaction with a huge energy cost and thus little energy production capabilities—Skunk Works’ Compact Fusion Reactor has a radically different approach to anything people have tried before. Here are the two of them for comparison:

[adrotate banner=”4″] Above: The traditional Soviet tokamak design of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a gigantic installation being built in France.

Above: The Skunk Works’ new compact fusion reactor design.

The key to the Skunk Works system is their tube-like design, which allows them to bypass one of the limitations of classic fusion reactor designs, which are very limited in the amount of plasma they can hold, which makes them huge in size—like the gigantic International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.
This architecture allows it to be 10 times smaller at the same power output of something like the ITER, which is expected to generate 500 MW in the 2020s. This is crucial for the use of fusion in all kind of applications, not only in giant, expensive power plants.

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