Lockhead Martin’s Skunk Works is famous for developing advanced technologies. Now Skunk Works Program Manager Charles Chase has outlined their plan for creating a 100 MW Fusion prototype by 2017.
For the last 50 years nuclear fusion has been viewed as the future of power production. With an energy density that’s six orders of magnitude greater than oil, running on low-cost deuterium, it makes sense that nations around the world have been pouring money into nuclear fusion R&D.
Until now the most successful fusion projects have used a technology called a tokamak. According to Chase, “…the physics of a tokamak require enormous size.” In
fact, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), where the most advanced research is taking place, is nearly 100 feet tall. But height isn’t the only issue. The ITER weighs 23,000 tons and is made of 1 million parts.
With ITER’s enormous size comes enormous complexity and cost. This, Chase says, is pushing the delivery date back by decades. “The first power plant based on ITER is not projected to be ready until the mid-2040s at best.”
To speed up this timetable Skunk Works is proposing a scaled down fusion reactor. “What if… you were able to generate fusion in a compact form-factor? Something that would generate 100 MW of power. Enough power for a small city of 50-100 thousand people, in something that would fit on the back of a truck.”
While technical details in Chase’s talk were sparse (it is a black ops division) he did say that back at Skunk Works they have built a compact experimental apparatus and are already seeing good results.
If the project is successful it would mean that portable, scalable and inexpensive energy might be available to the entire planet sooner than we expect.
Watch Charles Chase’s Talk at Solve for X:
Images and Video Courtesy of Wikipedia and Solve for X
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