In a presentation that seems ripped from the Atomic Age, Lockheed Skunkworks says it might be a decade away from producing a power plant based on compact fusion reactors. Unlike current nuclear reactors, all of which use fission, nuclear fusion does not easily produce materials that can be used in nuclear weapons. Fusion reactors also offer better containment, easier shutoff, greater energy efficiency, and less radioactive waste than their fissioning cousins. Of course, with something this promising, there has to be a catch.
Despite the fact that nuclear fusion has been pursued as a power source since the 1950s, fusion reactors have yet to be effectively turned into a regular power source. Tokamaks, the first kind of fusion reactor attempted, generated power by using magnets to squeeze and heat plasma in a giant ring. To make it work, you need a massive donut-shaped vacuum chamber, and it can take years to go from construction to power generation. There has been something of a modern revival of fusion reactor attempts, but most designs still are tremendous undertakings, requiring the kinds of resources and infrastructure that usually only governments can provide. And such coordination efforts are difficult in the best of times and can be an impossible sell during severe financial constraints.
So in part, it's the feasibility of the new Lockheed project that makes it so compelling. Much smaller than traditional fusion attempts, the compact fusion reactor uses a cylinder, not a ring, which makes for a stronger magnetic containment field and leaves fewer points where the energy could escape. This could make for a reactor that's small enough for a truck to transport and still robust enough to generate power for 100,000 homes. Lockheed hopes to have a test model available by 2017, and scale up to regular production by 2022.
Gee I remember in the 70s , 80s and 90s reading the same type headline. Its all BS. They are no closer than before.
Just hype to get more funding.
I'm reading that the US effort is starting over basically. Giving up on the currant approaches.
I hope that someday we figure out how to generate electricity from fusion. It would open up a lot of possibilities not only for cleaner power here but would be a viable power source for longer range spacecraft and even setting up bases on other planets since its fuel is easier to transport and has a much higher fuel to electricity ratio.
its cuz of whining asses like yours that it didnt moved sins then...
i love how you like being -realistic- pesimistic complaining about it not progressing fast enough and DO NOTHING...
even if fusion isnt my domain i support those scientists with new ideas all the way ^^
No facts, No response...
neither is english :)
It's doubtful fusion will ever be commercially viable. Just a giant ponzi scheme by scientists for job security nothing more. They are as far from a commercial reactor today as they were 75 years ago. Energy break even does nothing to produce power and even 10 times more energy does nothing as they can't KEEP up the power input long enough to sustain the reaction. No one has done it yet. Not even close.
"Can" it really be true this time a Cylinder? Funny how that works, fusion in a can is about how I read this. One thing I have been preaching about for a long time is the amount of pressure needed to fuse something together is almost the same amount of pressure you would feel close to a black hole, are the two realated?
Another thought is collapsing Bose-Einstein condensate cooled close to absolute zero does the same thing, the clue here in a cheap sustainable fusion reaction may be in the Higgs bosonic field and how it reacts with matter...
Maybe if we all run in giant hamster wheels, we'll be able to generate enough power for sustainable long lasting fusion.
@Gizmowiz, The JET, Joint European Torus (the largest fusion experiment in the world since 1983) has done a wonderful job at advancing Fusion research. The ITER fusion facility now also under construction in Europe will achieve full fusion many times more then the energy put in and will be able to sustain that Fusion reaction for more then 6 minutes at a time. That is a massive breakthrough and getting really close to full grid delivering fusion plants. The DEMO reactor that will follow on the design of ITER should provide constant grid energy and become the complete model for full working grid powered Fusion plants. So we are really looking at 30 to 40 years (50 year max) when the world could start building dozens of Fusion facilities. Not 75 years. So there is hope.
Although i would like to see the money mostly go to solar, wind, bio energy and methods to store that energy like giant lakes for later use (like the fjords already used in Norway or the giant island Belgium is now building). This way you don`t even need fusion reactors even when there is no wind and no sun. And these technologies could start to be installed on a massive scale right now (already done in many countries in Europe except for large energy storage methods).
The only thing worse than a Lemming is a Luddite. And the only things worse than those are proud Luddites like Gizmowiz who pride themselves on the ability to remain blissfully ignorant and content in the knowledge that everything is a conspiracy and nothing good ever comes from research. The point of research is that, whether it succeeds or fails, knowledge is gained from the endeavor; therefore, there is rarely a such thing as bad research.
I feel it is worth mentioning that the same close-minded people who have for decades doubted the feasibility of the electric car are now eating crow since Tesla's Model S has won car of the year and uses completely renewable energy thanks to solar charging facilities. And within a few years the vehicles themselves will be affordable for typical, middle class consumers. It's time to end pessimism and stop living in the past, because you will be left behind.
VToo7; What? English please. I'm not whining. Statement of FACT. Fusion(sustained)in the near future is not going to happen.
Wish it would.
vt007; Did You miss this..FACT.
There is the thing... fusion has been achieved. The issue is sustaining it and sustaining it at a rate that provides more power than is put into. The tech that ITER Fusion system is based off of is the closest we have been able to achieve, but again the issue is being able to sustain it at levels needed for it to become a reliable power source.
And if you don't think fusion is achieve able by humans... look no further than the particle accelerators.
Lockheed is saying they will be ready in 4 years.
I choose to take them seriously.
Why lie if you cant back it up for only four years?
I hope Lockheed succeeds. I really do.
However claims like this have been made for years.
Yet we are no where near sustained fusion power plants. Not even close. Maybe in 50 years, with an entirely different approach something may work.
Good luck Lockheed. Prove Me wrong.
It's only been ~100 years since heavier than air flight was "impossible" because so many had tried it for so long and failed. Imagine if we'd just given up because da Vinci couldn't figure it out.
I share at least some of your scepticism. I have read about fusion for at least 50 years and it was always 25 years away. But after so many billions spent nobody really has been able to produce a Watt off the technology so far. Even the multi billion ITER facility is really only a test in 20 or 30 years or maybe, with all the delays, only in 50 years time. There is no guarantee that anything like a prototype reactor can be built from the results. Even insiders are cautious about its success.
And now Lockheed, who seems to be stumped building a new fighter plane (that actually works), wants to make us believe they can do it in 5 years. As far as I am concerned, I wish them the best of luck, but if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
The other thing about fusion: in principle it is a limitless source of power, but it will still cause radioactive pollution because until now tritium was required to "light up" and the whole apparatus became radioactive.
In the mean time we have fission. It is proven, its waste can be managed, there a several technologies that could easily provide the whole world with clean power for a couple of 100 years, and by then we will find a better way to supply our power requirements anyway.
I don't know where you get the lemming analogy from, but you sound like one of those rats with rose tinted glasses that followed the pied piper to their demise.
As for the electric car, I hope it becomes better and more affordable every year. Because I,like most of the rest of the world, would prefer not to have to rely on the tempers of some middle eastern potentates of fanatics.
So, let's say they succeed in designing and building a 100 to 300 megawatt fusion reactor that fits on the back of a truck. Decentralized power brought to the entire planet - yes, very good. What happens when a bad guy gets his hands on one of those trucks with a 100 to 300 megawatt fusion reactor riding behind it? What can a bad guy do with 100 - 300 megawatts of continuous fusion power? Just sayin'.
I agree this is going to be difficult. That's obvious. But I'm really concerned about the responses, which echo a significant threat to the future -- extreme scientific pessimism and a deep distrust of technologists and scientists and academia.
With all of the great new info about containing fusion, I doubt they are far off in their predictions.
A 300 megawatt power plant on the back of a truck will turn anyone driving that truck into a mad scientist. Think Alfred Nobel. He thought dynamite would save the world. How'd that work out?
No point in making another glorified version of a steam engine. Waste of time and money, all nuclear technology is archaic, dirty and quite possibly the stupidest way of generating power ever conceived by man. (burning whale oil was smarter)
I really hope they accomplish their goal here, but based off of all the past proclamations, I'm not holding my breath. Just seems like it's too much promised in too short a time frame.
What I would like to see is more funding and development of thorium reactors. I believe right now the biggest investor in them is China. Many of the benefits of fusion reactors apply to thorium based fission reactors, but they can be implemented in existing light water reactors right now.
Let's take a look at who is making this pronouncement: Lockheed Skunkworks. In spite of some snarky comments about the latest jet fighters, they do have a pretty good record of developing things that no one officially knows about for a very long time (think SR-71). Also, have you thought about what a defense contractor might want to do with a 100MW, COMPACT, power source? Like maybe put it on a ship to power the next generation of energy weaponry? I think there is much truth here, although the timeline might be aggressive.
I do think we should put more effort into those thorium reactors that they mentioned a long time ago. Its very similar. Abundant fuel supply, safe, cleaner. It might not be as clean or high tech, but its still better than what were using today.
I didn't know the Aurora was fusion powered. I wonder how long it's been sitting in the hanger before they dusted it off and put the parts to some other use.
I think that Locheed Martin is going to get this working and the scale that they are producing increases the feasibility by probable a factor of 10. Look at the difference in scale. The experimental reactor that they are using has a 1 meter diameter and 2 meters in length 1.5 cubic meters in volume they are talking about the full size one being only twice as big 3 cubic meters. Just look at the facts sheet that the ITER has posted http://www.iter.org/factsfigures Their reactor has a volume of 840 cubic meters that is 280 times larger!!!! That is why they have had to sink 13 billion euros.
I love how a single company will out position a 13 billion euro experiment and bring fusion to the masses. Locheed martins development cycle for a reactor with a volume of 3 cubic meters will be months rather than decades. Shorter development cycle means more time to fine tune at a lower cost. This is how fusion will come to the masses not by governments sinks billions into a big physics experiment.
A couple of rebuttals:
SimpleMind- This is the biggest strawman argument I have heard in a long time! These are not going to be for sale to anyone and everyone and what would they do with a reactor not much but power a bunch of infrastructure. no big deal. If you think that Nobel was a failure because of dynamite try again. Yes dynamite has been adapted into bombs and has been used to kill a lot of people, however the good effects of dynamite are nearly immeasurable. Modern technology would not be possible without high explosives. Millions of people would have to labor mining in awful conditions in order to do the same work that dynamite does in modern mining. No raw materials no finished goods. No ores mean no metals mean no modern infrastructure. Nobel was a good man that made an amazing development in dynamite. End of Story!
dkella, what are you smoking? the only sustainable answer to our future energy needs is nuclear fission can do a lot for us in its current state but this type of fusion is the answer. What is your plan, Solar? not enough solar radiation penetrates the atmosphere unless we cover a huge portion of the earth with solar cells. Solar cell efficiency is far from where it needs to be and there is a hard limit to the amount anyway like I said earlier. So what is your answer?
Lumpydude, I can understand the pessimism but. you said "Maybe in 50 years, with an entirely different approach something may work." This is the completely different approach! Don't think that the change in form factor is a small change it is a huge change that hopefully is the breakthrough that we as a planet need!
To all those that say fusion is not going to work. Did you watch the video. One shift in approach solves three major problems that have plagued fusion reactors and have driven the fusion projects to the ITER scale. Decentralized electricity production is the answer, it eliminates a large portion of the problems with our current power infrastructure because you eliminate transmission losses. Yes a distribution network will still play a role but only as a backup and to balance load.
Scale is the answer!!! Small high density power production is the answer! I for one am casting my vote with the Skunkworks I think there approach is the right one!
The only sustainable fuel is manpower. Fusion is a farce and always will be. Fission is to dirty. Oil will run out. Gas is risking to much Methane release. Lets do away with 6.8 billion people and afterwards limit families to two babies punishable by death if exceeded.
Even if all they said in the video turns out to be 100% correct, there is no way an actual 100 MW power plant fits on the back of that semi. The reactor might be quite small but by the time you have fuel storage, delivery, a steam turbine, piping, cooling, condenser, electric generator, power conditioning equipment, and all the other needed auxiliaries, it will be a small building or even a big building. Steam plants are just not that small. However it could still be small enough for a ship for sure. I think it could also still be a revolutionary device. However it would never fit on a semi trailer.
To the scientists and engineers that are advancing this concept…Great Job!
However, I can appreciate the scepticism that is displayed in the comments. In my opinion it should not be directed at the scientists and engineers but rather the government and the energy cartel. The question is, will they allow such an energy source to be developed?
Yes, yes we all know that our beloved politicians are “Strongly Committed” to clean and affordable energy. We know this to be true because they keep saying it…right?...right!
However lets just review what happens when someone solves a problem that has been holding back advancements in clean energy.
Lets start with the “Bloom Box”…a fuel cell that can run directly on city gas and is not the high temperature version. Here is the company that developed out of this concept…Bloom Energy:
This concept was made practical in 2001…12 years ago. In fact, when I heard that they had delivered working units to businesses a couple of years ago I stopped thinking about doing research into high temperature fuel cells…the problem is solved and running at low temperatures with inexpensive materials for the components.
O.K….so why has this not taken off big time? Here is your distributed power and it can also run on Biogas. Farm waste to methane gas to electricity. Where are these “Strongly Committed” politicians that should have jumped this and helped get this produced not only on a mass scale for industry but also on a level for the home owner?
Inconsistency in word and deed
Lithium Ion Batteries
Then there is Dr. Yi Cui who started the company Amprius with his improvements of the Lithium Ion battery.
isn´t a battery breakthrough something that the world has been waiting for to make something like the electric car practicle? I mean,that is the argument that the auto companies keep repeating to the public…”Unsurmountable technical hurdles” are mostly grounded in battery technology.
Look how much support this guy gets to solve an “Unsurmountable technical hurdle” that has been holding up the industry…a whole 25 million dollars.
Enough has been said about that already
I really, really hope that this fusion concept does not go the way of the previously mentioned advances in energy technology. However, given the past record of the politicians and the behavior of the energy cartel, I would not get my hopes up.
I cannot tell if you are serious or not. Do you really live in constant fear of "bad guys"? Like, no, we better not make that fancy horseless carriage in case a bad guy gets his hands on it and does some damage.
Regardless, your lack of understand with respect to how fusion works is astonishing.
It would not matter if the plant was 100GW, it would not explode.
With a conventional fission reactor, control rods are used to prevent a continuous runaway reaction. With fusion, continuous input of power is needed to keep a reaction going. It is not a bomb and cannot be used as a bomb. Please, stop living your life in fear of any sharp edged object being used by bad guys. It truly is folks like you who prevent us from moving forward.