by wjw on March 3, 2015

More details about the fusion reactor being developed by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, courtesy of Aviation Week.

“We would like to get to a prototype in five generations. If we can meet our plan of doing a design-build-test generation every year, that will put us at about five years, and we’ve already shown we can do that in the lab.” The prototype would demonstrate ignition conditions and the ability to run for upward of 10 sec. in a steady state after the injectors, which will be used to ignite the plasma, are turned off. “So it wouldn’t be at full power, like a working concept reactor, but basically just showing that all the physics works,” McGuire says.

An initial production version could follow five years after that. “That will be a much bigger effort,” he says, suggesting that transition to full-scale manufacturing will necessarily involve materials and heat-transfer specialists as well as gas-turbine makers. The early reactors will be designed to generate around 100 MW and fit into transportable units measuring 23 X 43 ft. “That’s the size we are thinking of now. 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,” McGuire says. The concept makes use of the existing power infrastructures to enable the CFR to be easily adapted into the current grid. The 100-MW unit would provide sufficient power for up to 80,000 homes in a power-hungry U.S. city and is also “enough to run a ship,” he notes.

Here’s Lockheed’s own video on the subject.



Devlin du GEnie March 3, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I’m skeptical. Fusion power has had more 5-year plans than Chairman Mao, and with less success.

But…it’s the Skunk Works.

wjw March 4, 2015 at 12:26 am

Yep, it’s the Skunk Works. Though it’s possible that even Lockheed was taken in by an overenthusiastic adherent.

And, if you look at the small print, it sea “We haven’t actually built one yet, but the math looks really good.”

Though my question isn’t so much whether the tech will work, as whether the energy companies will allow it to exist in the first place.

TRX March 4, 2015 at 2:38 pm

There might be something out there now, but within the first weeks after the initial announcement I could find bupkis for technical papers on their new toy. I couldn’t find anything likely at either.

“I want to believe…” and, yeah, it’s freakin’ Lockheed… but they don’t even have any experimental data as far as I can tell, much less any hardware. And they’re remarkably quiet about exactly what they have, that they think they might turn into a working product in five years. Or maybe ten. Or maybe fifteen… I also note that, nearly half a year on, there’s still no technical information on their web page, though there’s some impressively slick graphics.

Back around 2005, Lockheed was announcing breakthroughs in “zero point” power generation. I guess they’re on their second or third five-year plan on that one. Now it’s fusion. Next, probably cold fusion. Yes, I think I have a problem with Lockheed’s PR vs. delivery ratio…

a french reader March 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Very interesting indeed.
The idea behind this approach is to use superconducting magnets to enhance the magnetic field that stabilizes the plasma (instead of conventional magnets). The main challenge will be to thermally isolate the magnets (which must remain below Tc~20°K) from the plasma (>10^6 °K)…
Good luck gentlemen…

sglover April 21, 2015 at 9:51 pm

I believe the Skunk Works is also the birthplace of the F-35. So much for reputation. Reputations don’t last forever, but while they do, they’re great for separating the suckers from their money….

The whole announcement always sounded dodgy: Lockheed (not exactly a capital-starved garage startup) claims it’s on the verge of a breakthrough that, in historic terms, would rank with the steam engine and the transistor. They would be printing money, were it true. Yet at the same time LM coyly says that it would just **love** some additional investment partners. I suspect the whole exercise is aimed at gulling Pentagon program managers, especially Navy ones.

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