Lockheed Martin - New Fusion Reactor design

Discussion in 'The Cesspool' started by Kittamaru, Oct 15, 2014.

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  1. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    http://sploid.gizmodo.com/lockheed-...source=gizmodo_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

    This... looks pretty cool! If they can actually shrink a fusion power plant as much as they are claiming... well, the applications are tremendous!
     
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  3. forrest noble Registered Senior Member

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    You're right again. This also has a huge potential touching many aspects of our culture and future, especially "the promise" of cheaper, safer, electrical production with seemingly little or no green-house gas foot prints. Less petroleum used for electrical power plants could mean cheaper power costs, oil prices, and gasoline, as well as more electrical cars. But aircraft and space flight are my biggest interests for this technology. It could completely transform both by spiraling down the costs with mass productions of these units. The success of this project could be the biggest boon ever for Lockheed, and even for the U.S. in general -- and eventually for the world. Air travel could be cheaper because of lower fuel costs, seemingly regardless of the aircraft's power supply costs. Extended space flights could become much cheaper and even much easier. For example there would be no lift leaving the surface of Mars. As to access to hydrogen for the fusion fuel, it could be easily extracted from water ice on Mars and even on the Moon, within the atmospheres of the gas giants and the surface of their moons, or from the asteroid belt. If deuterium or tritium is needed for the reaction (hydrogen isotopes), they are more plentiful on the moon than on Earth.

    They didn't discuss the risks for explosions that might be involved. They might unfortunately find this out during testing. But it seems pretty safe in that the input tubes are the input path for a forced-in and controlled reaction catalyst and reactant of neutrons, I think, so that a chain reaction beyond control would seem to be unlikely or impossible, from what I can tell.
     
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  5. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

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    You still have to mine the fuel, which would be a greenhouse gas intensive process. 10 years is optimistic for the commercial production of a brand new technology like this.
     
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  7. forrest noble Registered Senior Member

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    IMO you are right. At least ten years minimum must be expected before any large economic commercial production of this fuel on Earth, and maybe at least a half a century before economic commercial production could be reached on the moon

    Sea water contains a certain percentage of both deuturium and lithium, which is expensive to separate, and as I recall, the source of the material today. They know a lot about it since they need it for hydrogen bombs. Both, from our samples, appear to be more plentiful in the moon's surface rocks however. So if this technology takes off, the moon might eventually be the source for most of this fuel since it could be less expensive to eventually extract it there since green house gases would not be a problem, nor generally would environmental concerns for probably a long while. Power plants might also be built there, and the power beamed down to Earth by microwaves. It can be done now but the process it not too efficient yet since too much power is wasted in the beaming process. But some continue to work on better methods and equipment to perfect the technology. The same beaming technology could be used also to beam power from orbiting solar panels around Venus, to Earth or elsewhere including Mars. Solar panels on the moon also receive about 14 days of continuous sunlight before it would need to switch to solar panels on the other side. Very large orbiting solar panels beaming power might someday be the best choice for large power source needs for future space ventures or colonies.

    An afterthought: On the moon the waste heat from nuclear fusion might be used to operate steam engines as part of the fuel extraction process.
     
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Which component would have to be mined? Are you referring to producing tritium from lithium? I didn't see anything in the article about tritium - in fact nothing about the proposed fuel at all. Or is it that they all have to use tritium?

    Must admit this announcement looks fairly premature to me, given the appalling length of time that solving the problem of plasma confinement is taking. Has Lockheed's "Skunk Works" team really solved all that? How do we know, given that, by their own admission they are still at the stage of saying they would "like" to have working prototype after a further five generations. I'm sure they'd "like" that, but who knows whether they will manage it?

    Good publicity for Lockheed, of course. I wonder if it indicates a shift in their business strategy - energy generation hasn't seemed to be part of it hitherto.
     
  9. forrest noble Registered Senior Member

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    Although the ad play may be on energy, my guess is that that process is still marginal. It is the skunk works and not only Lockheed, but our government requires a great degree of secrecy. If it were advertised that they seemed to have all the primary problems worked out they might become the biggest target for industrial espionage in the world. It's not bombs, but the technology could be worth countless billions. IMO their concentration is on the rocketry aspect of it. Based on their time estimates for aircraft/ spacecraft and the small size of the design prototype and the small finished-design size, I expect they really have something new concerning rocketry.

    Only 5 years to a working prototype and 12-15 years to a production model of a rocket engine. A workable demonstration model that can produce ample thrust for lift off, seemingly would be proof that they will end up with a production model. Just that might be enough to double Lockheed's stock price. There seemingly will have to be a secondary process where gamma ray exhaust can be used as a catalyst for an additional fuel supply, so that gamma rays are not directly exhausted. Of course the same development could eventually lead to small, medium, and large, ground based electric power production units. Some additional efficiency loss would occur, however, between the fusion process and electrical power generation. This might be the reason they seem to be concentrating on rocket engines first -- which as you implied, is their business.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2014
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Keep in mind that fusion actually converts a sizable fraction of matter into energy. Thus the amount of fuel needed is fairly small compared to fission fuel.

    For comparison, a large fission reactor uses about 75 tons of uranium of fuel every 2 years, of which about 4 tons is actual usable fuel (the rest is U-238 which is not reactive.) For the same energy output from a fusion reactor you'd need about a ton of D-T fuel for the same power output for 2 years, or about 3 kilograms of fuel a day to generate about a gigawatt. Of that ~2kg will be tritium and ~1kg will be deuterium.
    If fusion works then greenhouse gases on Earth will not be an issue. A fusion reaction generates no greenhouse gases.
     
  11. Dr_Toad It's green! Valued Senior Member

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    Can we get Helium as a by-product? I've read we're running out, and my nuclear chemistry skills are so rusty they're almost non-existent. I like balloons and supercooled telescopes...
     
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Sure. But since fusion reactors use so little fuel, they produce very little helium. A few kilograms a day of helium won't make an appreciable dent in the current demand.
     
  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    I doubt they can contain a fusion-hot D-T plasma. I doubt they can get all the energy input out in the same quality form (not the heat equivalent) : I.e. net energy gain, but even if they can do that, I very strongly doubt it can be as cheap as coal fired power plant, not even as cheap as wind power is today. Unfortunately, we live in a "Profit Fueled" world.
     
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not so sure that "profit-fuelled"is a negative thing. It it makes no profit that means it is inefficient, doesn't it? Like the UK car industry in the 1970s.
     
  15. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Your post is correct IFF all the production cost is charged to the product or service provider. That rarely, if ever is the case. Most typically they get to "dump" some of the real cost into the commons - like the air we breath, water we drink (before the cost to clean it up is added) or steal wealth from future generations like cheap to produce oil, etc. with no compensation set aside for them. - Here Norway differs from all other oil producers.

    Norway has by far the world's largest "sovern wealth fund." - only small part of the money from oil sales is used to pay for the high quality schools, health care, public housing etc. - I.e. they tax themselves heavily to pay for that. - How dumb !! - They should be like Americans: Vote for representatives who promise all sorts of "goodies" and will send the bill to future generations.

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  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Well OK, nobody sensible says free market economics is perfect, hence the need of governments to regulate it (anti-monopoly, HSE and so forth), but there seems to be is no better system for allocating resources than this. I don't want to make a big deal of it, but I think it is is wrong to use the term "profit" as if it is a dirty word, that's all.
     
  17. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

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    And I agree 100%! Many here don't remember the 60's but "profit" was what many college-age kids protested against. The real kicker is that MANY of them wound up working for the companies they had protested against! (BIG laugh)

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  18. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    Scientists Are Bashing Lockheed Martin's Nuclear Fusion 'Breakthrough'

    Researchers at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Skunk Works, announced on Wednesday their ongoing work on a new technology that could bring about functional nuclear reactors powered by fusion in the next 10 years.

    But most scientists and science communicators we talked to are skeptical of the claim.

    "The nuclear engineering clearly fails to be cost effective," Tom Jarboe told Business Insider in an email. Jarboe is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, an adjunct professor in physics, and a researcher with the University of Washington's nuclear fusion experiment.

    The premise behind Lockheed's 10-year plan is the smaller size of their device. The scientists are designing an improved version of a compact fusion reactor. The CFR generates power from nuclear fusion by extracting energy through the extremely hot plasma contained inside it.

    The plasma consists of hydrogen atoms that, when heated to billions of degrees, fuse together. When this happens they release energy, which the CFR then extracts and can eventually transfer into electricity.

    Traditional containment vessels for these plasmas are called tokamaks, and they look like hollowed-out doughnuts and are the size of an average apartment. Lockheed says its new CFR can generate 10 times more power than a tokamak in a space that could fit on the back of a large truck, according to Aviation Week. But Jarboe disagrees.

    "This design has two doughnuts and a shell so it will be more than four times as bad as a tokamak," Jarboe said, adding that, "Our concept [at the University of Washington] has no coils surrounded by plasma and solves the problem."

    Although Lockheed Martin issued a press release saying it had several pending patents for its approach, the company has yet to publish any scientific papers on this latest work.

    http://news.yahoo.com/scientists-bashing-lockheed-martins-nuclear-232518813.html
     
  19. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    So... these scientists are saying what Lockheed Martin is saying is bullshit... despite not having access to any of Lockheed Martin's (no doubt proprietary and highly classified) design specs or documents...

    Much butthurt do I sense...
     
  20. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    Profit is based on the free market choice, for individuals to buy, but at a price that allows excess revenues to appear for the company. Tax, on the other hand, is not about choice to buy or not buy, but it is more like an extortion racket that steals money by force; mafia protection racket template. The tax and spend scam needs to make profit appear evil, so people don't realize taxation is stealing and therefore a worse evil than profit based on consumer choice. Taxation offers no choice and can be wasteful and never be accountable to free market forces.

    Picture if Government had to follow the free market model and make a profit, so it is a host (great hunter), instead of a mafia parasite. Each agency would have to compete for consumer dollars, with no citizen forced to spend anything to government, unless they like the product and service. To succeed, they would need to make money or turn a profit. This is way more difficult, and is beyond the present skill set of government. Yet many dump on the difficult and embrace the easy; Pavlov conditioning.

    Relative to fusion having to turn a profit means this is harder than just the government template of extorting money without regards to costs. This why the government is not among the competitors. The government could dump plenty of tax dollars into this, but the final approach needs to translate to a profit making enterprise in the free market. I can see the role of government as R&D, where profit is never there, in real time. But once the R&D is formulated it is transferred to free market to be tightened up.
     
  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    For whom?

    What these scientists do have is years of frustrating experience trying to confine plasmas, or finding alternatives to doing so. I think we are all entitled to be very sceptical indeed that it will all be solved by some Johnny-come-lately outfit that has yet to file a paper, let alone produce a working design. All they have, to date, seems to be a press release. Now, maybe they have hit on the solution that has eluded the world so far. But maybe not, eh?
     
  22. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    That's a good thing. If it's not as cheap, clean and useful as solar (and has no prospects of becoming so) we probably shouldn't be wasting effort on it.
     
  23. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    I did not use "Profit" as a "dirty word" - That is some idea you added to what is said. I just stated the obvious truth: Their fusion machine will not be commercial if the power it produces has less value than the cost. I. e. they must sell Kwh at no higher price than what other sources charge. The market (with government interference, usually to protect the existing players who can afford lobbyists) determines the max price they can charge: the local value of a Kwh. If they can sell with profit at that price, which I strongly doubt, then they can have a profit and not if they can't - we live in a profit making economy, not a "command economy" (thank god, until AI can make smarter than human commanders).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2014
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