ABUNDANT AND CLEAN ENERGY
It will have a budget of 250 billion U $ S per year so as to maximize efforts in R & D to perfect fusion reactors
Progress is being made in the technology of compact fusion reactors. Counting on increased investment will be more rapid progress and may have abundant energy to replace thermal energy power stations that operate on the basis of oil and coal. This replacement reserves will allow the important petrochemical industry can last 500 years and not only until 2050 when the wells are exhausted. Also they intensify investments in so-called clean energy (wind and solar).
It will have a budget of 250 billion U $ S per year so as to maximize efforts in R & D to perfect this technology and advance time considering strategic priority to have a new source of replacement power.
When we speak of a fusion reactor, we usually imagine a huge machine the size of a small building, and really usually the case. The new CFR (compact fusion reactor) Lockheed Martin is different. The size of an aircraft engine, and the potential to change forever our dependence on fossil fuels.
Fusion reactors have numerous advantages over nuclear fission. They are much safer and do not produce as many radioactive waste. Its operation is based on natural thermonuclear reactions that take place inside the stars, which is often used only deuterium and tritium hydrogen instead to start them. The CFR is by no means the only project that aims to achieve a compact fusion reactor. There are even engineering enthusiasts who investigate these devices in their garages, but Lockheed Martin is not exactly an amateur with limited means.
The reactor of the aerospace company’s work division of advanced projects, known as the Skunk Works. In Aviation Week they have obtained permission to visit its laboratories and interview Dr. Thomas McGuire, the mind behind this prototype.
A completely new design
Most fusion reactors operate by magnetic confinement. The main chamber of the reactor is surrounded by gigantic electromagnets that create a magnetic field to confine the plasma inside, flowing at 150 million degrees Celsius. The main problem with this design is that a lot of energy to create the magnetic barrier that confines the plasma and keep it refrigerated.
This new fusion reactor power can reinvent forever
Instead of the cylinder-shaped design toroidal ring (donut-shaped) with projects such as fusion reactor Tokamak Russian (shown above), McGuire and his team have opted for a completely new design. The main reactor vessel is a tube tapered at the ends. This shape allows to dramatically increase the amount of plasma that can be generated inside. Lockheed Martin engineers explain that this is a limitation of typical design of the first fusion reactors that have arisen as the giant ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), which is being built in France.
More energy in a size 10 times lower
The design allows McGuire and his team, according to the researchers, increasing the ratio of plasma that is capable of holding the camera in a stable manner. McGuire explains that in traditional legacy designs Tokamak, the percentage of plasma trapped in the chamber is only 5% of the confining pressure. With their design, these scientists hope to achieve the same power of ITER (which is supposed to be 20MW in 2020), but in a machine the size of a jet engine.
If they succeed, they would have created a motor capable of providing clean, cheap and continues to boats, planes and even spaceships energy. Also, the size is scalable. In other words, if a fusion reactor design that is built, but the size of ITER, could generate electricity to entire cities.
McGuire and his team calculated that a 100MW fusion reactor fits in a truck, and could power a large tonnage boat, or 80,000 homes for a year with only 25 kilos of nuclear fuel. In addition, the fuel used is a mixture of deuterium and tritium. The former can be extracted from seawater, while the second is a derivative of lithium. Tritium is polluting, but the amounts used are minimal compared to current systems. Radioactive contamination of the reactor chamber is also much lower and less durable than nuclear fission waste.
What remains to be done?
The big question is how much time remains for us to see this wonder working. McGuire’s answer is that you still have to spend about a decade. Lockheed Martin engineers plan to develop and test a new version of the reactor every year, with the first working prototype by 2019.
That prototype would not work at full power, but simply serve to prove that all physics calculations are correct. If that is the case, in another five years, the company already have the first commercial prototype, capable of generating 100MW. Much remains, but the prospect of end once the dependence on oil and nuclear fission is really exciting. [Skunk Works via Aviation Week]
Trouble for Lockheed’s fusion reactor? Device that could ‘solve the world’s energy crisis’ is 100 times larger than first planned
- In 2014, Lockheed said its nuclear reactor would be small enough to fit on a truck
- But a new technical report shows that it is 100 times larger than this
- The ‘compact’ reactor weighs a huge 2,000 tons and is 18 metres long
In 2014, Lockheed Martin announced that it was working on a nuclear fusion reactor small enough to fit on the back of a truck.
Many said the device could ‘solve the world’s energy crisis’.
But it seems the firm may be facing some issues living up to its claims.
An updated technical report shows that Lockheed’s fusion reactor is 100 times larger than it originally planned, weighing a huge 2,000 tons.
Dr Matthew J Moynihan, a self-proclaimed ‘Nuclear Fusion Evangelist’ from Houston has released technical specifications on Lockheed’s fusion reactor project.
While Lockheed Martin claimed in 2014 that the reactor would weigh 20 tons, the new specification shows that it will weigh 2,000 tons.
In terms of size, it is seven metres in diameter, and 18 metres long – similar in size to a submarine nuclear fission reactor.
In a blog, Mr Moynihan wrote: ‘Based on the newest numbers – the CFR is not as compact as we had thought.
‘The core looks to be over 50 feet long and 20 feet in diameter.
‘A hot plasma will sit inside this ~16.3 cubic meter space.
‘That is enough space to fit two yellow school buses, with some extra room.
Nuclear fusion involves placing hydrogen atoms under high heat and pressure until they fuse into helium atoms.
When deuterium and tritium nuclei – which can be found in hydrogen – fuse, they form a helium nucleus, a neutron and a lot of energy.
This is done by heating the fuel to temperatures in excess of 150 million°C, forming a hot plasma.
Strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the walls so that it doesn’t cool down and lose its energy potential.
Neutrons released from plasma (seen here in purple) transfer heat through reactor walls to drive a turbine
These are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel, and by an electrical current driven through the plasma.
For energy production, plasma has to be confined for a sufficiently long period for fusion to occur.
Lockheed’s system features a tube-like design, which allows them to get around one of the limitations of traditional fusion reactor designs, that are limited by the amount of plasma they can hold.
Lockheed has found a way to constrain the plasma, using what is called a compact fusion reactor (CFR) with a specifically shaped magnetic field inside.
Lockheed’s system features a tube-like design, which allows them to get around one of the limitations of traditional fusion reactor designs, that are limited by the amount plasma they can hold
When the plasma tries to expand, the magnetic field fights back to contain it. In effect, this means the plasma works to contain itself.
But when the firm first announced its plans for the tiny reactor, people were skeptical about it.
Dr Joel Gilmore, Principal at Renewable Energy & Climate Policy at Roam Consulting said: ‘Certainly, I’d welcome fusion as part of the world’s energy mix, but this announcement is a long way from a working prototype, let alone a commercially viable power generator.
Strong magnetic fields are used to keep the plasma away from the walls so that it doesn’t cool down and lost it energy potential. These are produced by superconducting coils surrounding the vessel, and by an electrical current driven through the plasma
‘Fusion requires incredibly high temperatures and pressures, which is challenging, and a lot of people have been working on fusion for a long time. So I won’t get too excited yet.’
Lockheed had hoped that its fusion reactor could help in developingnew power sources amid increasing global conflicts over energy.
But the new technical specifications suggest that the firm could be struggling to refine its reactor.