Andrea Rossi and his E-Cat cold fusion claims still smell like a fraud. It has been hyped for over 4 years now with little to show. I am somewhat surprised that there are still a few gullible academics and journalists around who keep the circus going.
The Lockheed-Martin development of a compact fusion reactor has a long way to go but I find it much more credible. I could consider betting some money on the compact fusion reactor but would not touch the E-Cat with a very, very, long barge pole.
Th availability of a fusion reactor of any kind would revolutionise the availability of electrical energy but always subject to cost. Mere availability would not be enough to cause a paradigm shift. The availability of gas (natural gas, shale gas and gas from methane hydrates) now extends to about 1,000 years. The use of gas turbine combined-cycle power plants, which have a 2 year construction period, will provide the cost benchmark for electricity production. Where fusion might place in the power generation mix will depend on its operating cost but the level to which it may penetrate will depend on the capital cost and the construction time.
A compact reactor as envisaged by Lockheed- Martin however would be a game changer not only for electricity generation but also for desalination, electrical vehicles and even space travel. The beauty of “compact” if achieved is that it “automatically” leads to low-cost and modular construction.
The probablity of success in the time-frame envisagesd is still low. It is a high risk development and it will not be cheap. But the potential reward is immense.
Some of the characteristics of their high-beta, compact reactor are:
- The device is cylindrical and 2×2×4 meters in size.
- The magnetic field increases the farther out that the plasma goes, which pushes the plasma back in.
- It also has very few open field lines (very few paths for the plasma to leak out; uses a cylinder, not a Tokamak ring).
- Very good arch curvature of the field lines.
- The system has a beta of about 1.
- This system uses deuterium and tritium.
- The system heats the plasma using radio waves.
PALMDALE, Calif., Oct. 15, 2014 – The Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Skunk Works® team is working on a new compact fusion reactor (CFR) that can be developed and deployed in as little as ten years. Currently, there are several patents pending that cover their approach.
While fusion itself is not new, the Skunk Works has built on more than 60 years of fusion research and investment to develop an approach that offers a significant reduction in size compared to mainstream efforts.
“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,” said Tom McGuire, compact fusion lead for the Skunk Works’ Revolutionary Technology Programs. “The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year.”
After completing several of these design-build-test cycles, the team anticipates being able to produce a prototype in five years. As they gain confidence and progress technically with each experiment, they will also be searching for partners to help further the technology.