Lockheed Martin has announced its Skunk Works has been working on a fusion reactor, in the hopes of meeting the world’s demands for energy. The compact fusion reactor, or CFR, is safer, cleaner, and more powerful than existing nuclear reactors, according to an Aviation Week article. Fusion happens when two or more high-energy atoms collide, creating a new atomic nucleus and releasing a great deal of energy, provided that the atoms being crunched together have a lower atomic mass than iron. It’s how the sun shines: by slamming together high-energy hydrogen particles, and in so doing, creating helium atoms.
Lockheed Martin Corp.’s (LMT) secretive Skunk Works unit, which designed the U-2 spy plane and F-117 stealth fighter jet, is developing a reactor to harness nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun. The reactor would be small enough to fit in a truck and generate enough energy to light 80,000 homes, the Bethesda, Maryland-based company said today. The reactor would burn less than 20 kilograms of fuel in a year, producing waste that’s “orders of magnitudes less” than the ash and sludge spewed from coal plants. Lockheed is building on 60 years of research into fusion, a technology that promises to release more energy than current commercial units using nuclear fission, without the risk of Fukushima-style meltdowns. The technology could be deployed within a decade and would be smaller and easier to make than competing concepts, Lockheed said in a statement today. “Our compact fusion concept combines several alternative magnetic confinement approaches, taking the best parts of each, and offers a 90 percent size reduction over previous concepts,” Tom McGuire, compact fusion lead for the Skunk Works’ Revolutionary Technology Programs, said in the statement.