Lockheed Martin May Be Able to Power Entire Cities with Nuclear Fusion Energy by 2024
Could nuclear fusion be the answer to our energy crisis? Global defense contractor Lockheed Martin is working to harness nuclear fusion energy to power the world, and they believe it can be done within ten years.
Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun, utilizes the excess energy released from the combination of atoms. Hydrogen atoms fuse into helium atoms at a 4:1 ratio in the sun's center, and any of the hydrogen atoms' mass that is not converted into helium is released as energy. Lockheed Martin plans to use this same process to power cities on Earth. In the case of the proposed reactor, hydrogen atoms will be stripped of their electrons to create ion plasma, which will be sustained by an extremely powerful magnetic field. If the ion plasma is sustained long enough, then the ions will eventually undergo a fusion reaction, which will release energy.
Today, reactors are powered by nuclear fission, which differs from nuclear fusion in that it releases radioactive material, and does not provide clean energy. Nuclear fusion could provide us with a virtually infinite supply of energy at no harm to the environment. The hydrogen fuel also provides ten million times more energy than the same amount of fossil fuels.
Scientists have been studying nuclear fusion for many years, but their energy output has not been efficient enough for widespread use. According to Lockheed Martin, their proposed compact fusion reaction will use a specific type of magnetic field that will make the machine ten times more efficient, and can therefore be ten times smaller, so it can fit into the back of a truck. The smaller size of makes the endeavor for clean energy more feasible than ever before.
"The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the [reactor] in less than a year," said Tom McGuire, Lockheed Martin's compact fusion lead.