Lockheed Martin announced that its company has made a sizable breakthrough in delivering realistic nuclear fusion technology within the next decade.
The company states that it will deliver a 100-megawatt fusion reactor sized at just 10 feet by 7 feet within 10 years. However, Lockheed hopes to test its reactor concept technology in less than a year.
Nuclear fusion involves combining two atoms together into a single, larger atom. It happens naturally in stars and, unlike nuclear fission, which splits atoms apart, it does not release radioactive particles, making it safe and clean.
Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of energy. It's clean and limitless and provides an alternative to fossil fuels and coal. It also produces a lot of power, 100 megawatts, enough to power a small city.
However, we haven't used nuclear fusion yet because no one has built an efficient reactor that doesn't require more power going into it than coming out.
Lockheed states that it has figured out that problem, though. Tom McGuire, the head of Lockheed's fusion power project, and his team spent four years working on fusion but is now taking their findings public for future partnerships.
However, the company is holding the secret of their breakthrough close.
"Our compact fusion concept combines several alternative magnetic confinement approaches, taking the best parts of each, and offers a 90 percent size reduction over previous concepts," says the company in a statement.
Of course, Lockheed's fusion reactor is still just a concept, but the company feels confident that they will have a small working prototype within a year.
Lockheed's team isn't the only group working on nuclear fusion. A team of scientists from the University of Washington built a small prototype of their fusion concept, which, once taken to full-scale, will produce the same output as a coal factory but at a lower cost.
Lockheed is probably most interested in government contracts, and their nuclear fusion could provide unlimited power to military vehicles, such as ships and submarines, which currently rely on nuclear fission reactors that need replacing every few years.
However, nuclear fusion isn't just a good source of energy on Earth. It could also provide power for future spacecrafts, allowing space vehicles to travel farther. Current rockets need a lot of fuel, so much so that we can't travel long distances without running out. A fusion-powered engine could change everything, making long distance space travel faster and easier. Nuclear fusion power is probably our best bet for traveling to Mars and beyond.