Lockheed Martin’s R&D Fusion: clean power for the future?
Lockheed Martin believes fusion energy is the future. In their opinion fusion energy is the ultimate form of renewable power. For scientists and engineers the sun is their inspiration because it is the biggest natural fusion reactor we know.
They think they will manage to have clean power for the world in 20 years. There is also skepticism about this Fusion project.
Nuclear fusion is the most basic form of energy in the universe. It is what powers the sun and all of the stars. It is produced by a nuclear reaction in which two atoms of the same lightweight element, usually an isotope of hydrogen, combine into a single molecule of helium, the next heavier element on the periodic table.
Lot of energy
During the fusion process a gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together. When this happens, they release a lot of energy – about one million times more powerful than a chemical reaction and 3-4 times more powerful than a fission reaction.
By containing the power of the sun in a small magnetic bottle, they are on the fast track to developing compact fusion reactors to serve the world’s ever-growing energy needs.
The heat energy created using this compact fusion reactor will drive turbine generators by replacing the combustion chambers with simple heat exchangers. In turn, the turbines will then generate electricity or the propulsive power for a number of applications.
Pros of Nuclear Fusion
- Clean energy. No greenhouse gasses
- Virtually limitless fuel available. (The deuterium can be distilled from seawater and the tritium can be “bred” in the reactor.)
- No chain reaction. Easier to control or stop than fission
- Little or no nuclear waste. Core remains radioactive for only 100 years. possibly radioactive structural elements
- Very low fuel cost
Cons of nuclear fusion
- Unproven at anything resembling commercial scale
- No full scale production expected till at least 2035
- Commercial power plants would be extremely expensive to build
- Requires extremely high temperatures. Difficult to contain
- Could produce a net negative amount of energy
- If cold fusion could be achieved, it would be much easier to implement
In many ways, fusion power seems like the perfect energy source. It’s clean, it’s inexpensive, and it uses seawater as its fuel source.
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