Lockheed Martin patented compact synthesis reactor
While the world is watching to see how the garden is growing in the Facebook garden stones, Lockheed Martin quietly filed a patent related to the design of a potentially revolutionary compact synthesis reactor, also known as CFR. If the project will be developed on schedule, the company will present a prototype of the system the size of a ship's container, but the ability to feed the aircraft carrier class "Nimitz" or 80,000 homes in the next year. All anything, but, as we know, nuclear fusion "will be in 20 years." We thought so 60 years ago.
The patent for part of the confinement system, or body, is dated February 15, 2018. Defense contractor, whose headquarters is located in the state of Maryland, filed a request for a preliminary April 3, 2013 and the official almost a year later. As the project evolved since then?
In 2014, the company surprised the world in general, saying that working on a similar device and is responsible for leading projects Skunk Works in their office in Palmdale, California. While Thomas McGuire, head of Compac Fusion Project, said that the goal - to create a working reactor in five years and to bring the project into production in ten.
"I studied it in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where, as part of NASA research, I examined how quickly we get to Mars," says McGuire in 2014 in an interview with Aviation Week. "I started going through all the ideas published. Basically I took them and unite, transforming into something new, removing the problems alone, and replacing them with other benefits. "
Scientists are developing fusion reactor concept with the 1920s, but, unfortunately, most of the functional examples have been ineffective, and large - in fact, with the size of a small building - so expensive, of course. For instance, the ITER reactor, which is being built in France by the international consortium, will be ready in 2021. It had spent a total of $ 50 billion, and it weighs about 23 000 tonnes. All these devices are, of course, can be called experimental, they weakly answer practical purposes, and the problem is to limit (konfayning) reaction, which takes place in the heart of the sun and other stars. Unlike nuclear fission reaction, when the atomic nuclei are cleaved, releasing energy synthesis reaction involves heating the fuel gas to the point where its atomic structure is broken under pressure and some particles coalesce into heavier nucleus.
This process involves the release of a massive amount of energy, a million times greater than with conventional chemical reactions, such as combustion of fossil fuel, said McGuire. But for this you need to try to keep the gas to be able to extremely high-energy plasma, for some time at a temperature in the hundreds of millions of degrees.
This generally limits the capacity of the reactors, even larger, because of fears that they may be nice to break. In an interview in 2014 McGuire used the tokamak magnetic confinement device developed by Soviet scientists in the 1950s, as an example. It is explained by the fact that the lower limit of the tokamak magnetic pressure at which it can operate safely.
McGuire tried to explain, at least in theory, as the CFR should avoid these problems:
"tokamak The problem is that they can hold only a certain amount of plasma, we call it beta limit," says McGuire. Measured as the ratio of plasma pressure to magnetic pressure, beta-limit conventional Tokamak very low, or the order of "5% or so in a limiting pressure," he says. Comparing the torus with a motorcycle tire, McGuire adds: "If you pump too much, limiting the tire burst, so it is impossible to approach too close to work safely."
CFR should avoid these problems by taking a fundamentally different approach to plasma confinement. Instead plasma limitations in tubular rings, a series of superconducting coils create a magnetic field with a new geometry, in which the plasma is maintained over a wide range throughout the reaction chamber. Superconducting magnets in the coils will generate a magnetic field around the outer boundary of the chamber. "Instead of expanding motorcycle tire in the air, we will have a tube that extends in a solid wall," says McGuire. The system will be governed by self-adaptive response mechanism, so that the plasma will expand further, the stronger the magnetic field will push it back, hold. CFR, is expected to have the beta limit per unit.
If the system is to work, it is difficult to imagine how it will change not only the future of military operations, but also the very nature of human existence. Working on six kilograms of fuel - a mixture of hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium - reactor Lockheed Martin will be able to supply power for a year without stopping. During this period, the device will be able to produce 100 MW of continuous power.
According to the company, the reactor can be powerful enough to use it to worked as an aircraft carrier, the size of the plane C-5 Galaxy, provide electricity for a city with a population of between 50 and 100 000 people, and possibly even send us on a trip to Mars. In each case, large compact reactor replace conventional fuel systems or fission reactors, excluding the weight and mass. This, in turn, can create a retail space for an additional system or capacity in terms of staff or material resources, or to provide a more economical overall shape or design. In the case of aeronautical applications, depending on the exact size of the reactor, the system can give the aircraft an unlimited flight range throughout the life cycle; thus limiting the requirement of the crew will be a need for food, water and other life support systems. Drones with high altitudes can stay in flight for months or even years, gradually replacing the satellites and other communication infrastructure for military and civilian applications.
It could also lead to a permanent monitoring of wide areas in which usually it is difficult to control the situation from the air, for example, in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, with almost unlimited. It would be useful to monitor the movements of your opponent or changes in animal populations, or water temperature.
The same benefits can receive terrestrial means of transport, ships and even space vehicles: no one would have refused virtually unlimited power in a compact form factor that allows to conquer the tyranny of distance. Logistic chains would not be needed as a phenomenon. But the biggest advantage will result in a nice bonus for the environment.
Dividing the difference between the response and the synthesis reaction in the reactor is that the latter produces no hazardous emissions to the ozone layer, and even if the system fails, it does not lead to massive ecological catastrophe associated with radiation emission. Deuterium and tritium are used quite successfully in a commercial environment and are relatively harmless in low doses. A small amount of fuel needed to run the synthesis reactor itself reduces the risk of leakage and contamination of a large area. And as the synthesis reactor does not need to divide the purified material, it is much more difficult to use as a launching pad for a nuclear weapon. Such reactors can be put in hospitals, schools, desalination plants, without any risk to local residents.
Fuel will also be a lot, and it will be easily accessible, as the sea water provides a virtually unlimited source of deuterium, while tritium is also quite easy to get. Waste is far less dangerous than those that remain after the operation of nuclear reactors and materials remain radioactive for hundreds, not thousands of years.
Such a system will generate heat and direct this energy to the turbine movement, generating electricity, and thus Lockheed Martin could well offer the replacement of existing fuel sources using coal, oil and nuclear fission. In an emergency, for example, as a result of a major disaster, compact reactors, placed in trucks, could quickly restore power entire cities.
Of course, we have not yet seen Lockheed Martin synthesis reactor and do not know whether it will be real at all. Many companies and organizations have attempted to create a working fusion reactor for almost a hundred years, but this has failed to anyone.
On the one hand, the fact that a corporation filing a patent application does not mean that they are actively developing the technology described in the document. In addition, since the dissemination of information in 2014, Skunk Works is very little talked about this project outside the plasma physics community. The US government also reserves the right to classify the patents, if they are public, which may represent a threat to national security. And the fact that the patent is not, also casts doubt on project maturity. Remembering the five-year development period, which McGuire said in 2014, should we expect another big statement from Lockheed Martin in the near future?