An article by Daniel Clery at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s news site ScienceInsider reports about new information presented at a news conference held at Lockheed’s Palmdale, California facility on Monday in which Tom McGuire, who is heading up Lockheed’s recently announced ‘compact fusion’ project, gave more information about the work he is involved with.
According to McGuire, the reason the normally very secretive Skunk Works division at Lockheed went public with this news is that they are seeking to find partners to help them in developing their fusion reactor, and expand the small team that has been working on the project. McGuire stated, ““we think we’ve invented something that is inherently stable . . . [but] we are very early in the scientific process.””
Apparently this reactor uses a design referred to as ‘cusp confinement’, which uses magnetic fields to trap particles. They also use ‘magnetic mirrors’ and a recirculation system to ensure that particles do not escape the reactor.
McGuire said that there would need to be shielding around the reactor with a thickness of between 80 and 150 centimeters to prevent the release of neutrons. No data from testing has been release yet, but McGuire said that results would be published next year.
All in all, it seems to me that while scientifically interesting, Lockheed’s system is a long way behind Rossi’s E-Cat reactor in terms of product development, simplicity, safety and performance. When it comes to commercial availability, indications are that the fist commercial E-Cat plant is in the testing phase as we speak (but we can’t count success yet) — and the Lockheed fusion reactors seem to be at least a decade away.
I do think Lockheed is ahead in one area — public awareness and media attention. Since the announcement of this project last week, the Lockheed fusion story has been covered in mainstream media sources across the globe (see here for a sample of links from Google News) — and the video Lockheed released has had almost half a million views so far on YouTube. The recent release of the Lugano E-Cat test report has barely made a ripple in the media.