This is an invention that might possibly modify the civilization as we know it: A compact fusion reactor presented by Skunk Works, the stealth experimental technology section of Lockheed Martin. It's about the size of a jet engine and it can power airplanes, most likely spaceships, and cities. Skunk Works state that it will be operational in 10 years. Aviation Week had completeaccess to their stealthy workshops and spoke to Dr. Thomas McGuire, the leader of Skunk Work's Revolutionary Technology section. And ground-breaking it is, certainly: Instead of utilizing the similar strategy that everyone else is using— the Soviet-derived tokamak, a torus in which magnetic fields limit the fusion reaction with a enormous energy cost and thus tiny energy production abilities—Skunk Works' Compact Fusion Reactor has a fundamentally different methodology to anything people have tried before. Here are the two of those techniques for contrast:
|The old-style Soviet tokamak scheme of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a huge system being constructed in France.|
|The Skunk Works' recent compact fusion reactor design.|
The one thing here to remind everyone is that Lockheed Martin is not a stupid dude working in a garage. It's one of the world's major aerospace and military corporations. McGuire also understands that they are just starting now, but he says that the architecture of this compact fusion reactor is sound and they will progress rapidly until its final operation in just a decade:
“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. So it wouldn't be at full power, like a working concept reactor, but basically just showing that all the physics works.”
After five years, they believe to have a completely operative model prepared to go into full-scale construction, capable of producing 100MW— which is enough to power a huge cargo ship or a 80,000-home city—and its size will be 23 x 42 feet only which is quite amazing.