Lockheed Announces Unexpected Fusion Breakthrough

Lockheed engineers announce they’ve made a breakthrough in fusion technology, and will deliver a prototype reactor in 5 years.

fusion, lockheed, reactor, energyUnexpected news regarding a major breakthrough in fusion technology has emerged from Lockheed Martin’s usually secretive Skunk Works operation.

According to Lockheed, engineers at the firm have made a technological breakthrough in the design of a 100MW compact fusion reactor.

Unlike nuclear fission, where an atom is split to yield energy, fusion reactions occur when two atoms, usually deuterium or tritium, are smashed together at high temperatures.

In Lockheed’s design a 2.1 x 3.0 meters (7 x 10 foot) reactor equipped with two magnetic rings would isolate and contain a plasmatic soup of atoms heated to billions of degrees. Once energized to that state the atoms would fuse together releasing an enormous amount of energy that would then be funneled to turbines that would generate electricity.

Though Lockheed’s claims have been met with a surge of media attention, many scientists have raised questions about the feasibility of the industrial giant’s design.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Swadesh M. Mahajan, a thermonuclear physicist at the University of Texas – Austin said, “We know of no materials that would be able to handle anywhere near that amount of heat,” that would be required by Lockheed’s designs. Mahajan added, “So it’s both the physics and the engineering [required in Lockheed’s design] which are extremely, extremely daunting.”

To further scientific consternation, Lockheed’s engineers have also put their project on an ambitious timeline. According to Lockheed, within the year the company will have built and tested their first compact fusion reactor. Four years later the firm will have a working prototype and by 2050 the technology will meet global baseload energy demands.

While it is possible (and likely probable) that Lockheed’s announcement is nothing more than a publicity stunt meant to fund its project, it could also be an exciting leap forward for fusion research. Whichever may be the case, “heretical” theories and designs have upset the scientific status quo and shifted global paradigms in the past. So either way, this should be interesting.

Image and Video Courtesy of Lockheed Martin