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    Posted February 27, 2013 by
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    Tech talk

    Fusion: Power, Water, Food, soon!


    Lockheed Martin, one of the United States' largest defense contractors, has long been known as the home of the infamous "Skunk Works" top-secret technology development group.


    This research and development group, officially known as the "Advanced Development Programs" at Lockheed Martin, is responsible for amazing achievements in science and engineering, including the SR-71 Blackbird, the U2 spyplane, the F-22 Raptor, the stealth fighter F-117 Nighthawk, and many more.


    Historically, information regarding current projects at the Skunk Works is hard to come by: rumors and sightings of unusual aircraft overhead (often by amateurs) provide most of the information available to the public. The official announcements of new designs usually occur years after they have been deployed, and some few individuals consider the public announcement of a new technology to imply the Skunkworks already has better behind closed doors.


    Now, however, Charles Chase (Senior Program Manager, Revolutionary Technology Programs at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works), created a video presentation for Google's Solve for <x> forum wherein he discusses an exciting current project, of which the Skunk Works is understandably proud: a solution for scarcity.


    Truly, a solution to the energy crisis. A source of never ending pure fresh water. A solution to the food crisis. A solution to global warming. The end of third world problems and the beginning of a brave new world for all mankind.


    Fusion power.


    A safe, clean, inexpensive, 100 Megawatt fusion reactor that fits on a flatbed truck, consumes lithium and sea water, and produces electricity, heat, pure water, and helium.


    Now, the news has been reporting about fusion for decades. The ITER fusion project (a joint venture of the EU, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and the United States) broke ground on the ITER Tokamak reactor in France in 2007. This reactor will eventually, in theory, produce 500 Megawatts of power, with first generation occurring in 2020.


    The total cost of the ITER project is now officially projected to cost in excess of 19 Billion dollars, up from ~6 billion when it was planned. The reactor is a huge and complex machine, larger than a 10 story building -- and is only designed to test fusion: it will only run for seven minutes at a time.


    This new announcement from Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works is nothing like that.


    In his video for Solve For <x>, Charles Chase says this provides "a virtually unlimited zero emission energy source"


    This reactor design will produce 100 MW, enough power to support 50,000 to 100,000 people — more than most cities in the US — consuming only tritium and deuterium, two isotopes of hydrogen gas, and producing only helium, the inert gas that makes your voice sound funny.


    This reactor design, unlike the ITER test reactor, will fit on a flatbed truck, potentially replacing power distribution substations in big cities. This will eliminate the energy currently lost to power distribution (sending electricity across the country in power lines), saving roughly 2% of electricity costs -- and saving additional infrastructure costs: there's no need to continue maintaining these high voltage power transmission lines, nor to run new ones to found new towns and cities. Just drive in a new reactor.


    All this, with the working 100MW prototype in just four years. Full assembly line products rolling out of the factory in just 10 years.


    With the complexity of a fusion reactor reduced from a 19 billion dollar 10 story building to "complexity..closer to that of a jet engine", the costs scale down similarly.


    Fusion power in a new reactor design. Inexpensive, relatively soon, with a scale that supports rapid design iterations for continued improvements.


    A solution to the energy demands of humans.


    Projecting forward, as these reactors continue rolling off the production lines, we will have enough electricity for every human on earth — including Africa, India, China, South America, not just first-world urban areas. Enough electricity to run your computers, refrigerators, microwaves, and televisions 24 hours a day, every day. By 2050.


    No need for solar. No need for wind. Immune to weather.


    Safe. Can't meltdown (it simply turns off instantly).


    With unlimited cheap power it becomes trivial to produce fresh water via desalination plants. The Middle East already uses a very energy hungry desalination method to provide 90% of the water used. Other areas are forced to use less power hungry "reverse osmosis" methods, as only the Middle East has the abundant fossil fuel energy available at the lowest prices to make it efficient. No longer. The new fusion reactor will allow every country, every city, fresh water from seawater, on any desired scale.


    With an unlimited supply of fresh water comes an unlimited supply of irrigation water. Which leads to a solution to global hunger. All of the deserts of the world can be irrigated, allowing farming previously impossible.


    Besides unlimited and inexpensive power, water, and food, imagine 1 month trips to Mars (instead of 6-18 months) and the power to mine asteroids for metals rare on Earth.


    In addition to all of these benefits, we can reduce the carbon footprint of humans on earth to negligible levels. No more burning coal, no more burning gas, no need for kerosene, propane, natural gas, butane...no need for jet fuel, no need for rocket fuel. No exhaust from your car. No exhaust from your homes central air conditioner.


    No carbon monoxide deaths. No strip mining for resources we no longer need, or can get from asteroids.


    We can remake the world, creating a pristine environment, and keep our power hungry gadgets and "first world" comforts — even spread them to every human on earth!


    Spread the word.


    The times, they are a changin'


    10 years to production-line fusion power plants. An end to scarcity — for all humans — by 2050.


    Start your clocks.


    Charles Chase' presentation to Solve for <x>: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JAsRFVbcyUY


    The Solve for <x> YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyF-6wI0EoKAe7nZqlIOrOA


    The Solve for <x> website: http://www.solveforx.com


    The ITER reactor design and scale: http://www.f4e.europa.eu/understandingfusion/iterdevice.aspx


    The Lockheed Martin Skunkworks website: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/aeronautics/skunkworks.html


    Media from http://Commons.Wikimedia.Org

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