The two ends of Fusion energy research have claimed ‘success’ this month. The big end of town Hot Fusion researchers, have claimed to have a new technology that will shrink reactor size to manageable proportions, making commercialization more realistic. None other than the famously covert Lockheed Martin Skunk Works have made the claim, of having moved Hot Fusion a step closer to commercialisation by using an alternate containment technology to shrink the usual massive tokamak containment technology to more manageable, and commercial, size. It was claimed by Lockheed Martin, in Aviation Week, that their new CFM technology can increase containment effectiveness by 10 times that of a traditional tokamak.
Meanwhile at the bench-top ‘poor cousin’ Cold Fusion, end of the Fusion energy spectrum, a success of sorts has been claimed by the Andrea Rossi E-Cat Cold Fusion team. It has been claimed in the tech journal Ny Teknik and Pure Energy Systems News that the claimed 1 Megawatt E-Cat cell preformed a test run for 5 hours. The output power was given as 470 Kilowatts, down from the nominal 1 Megawatt due to technical problems running the cell at full power.
Both of these claimed Fusion ‘energy breakthroughs’, have been swathed in more questions than they answered. Given Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works pedigree in breaking technologies, one can’t entirely dismiss their claims to new containment technologies out of hand. That said however the various press releases had that ominous caveat of pushing any commercialisation hopes out to at least another decade.
The new compact containment geometry technology, claims to extract energy out of the controlled plasma, that can be turned into commercially viable electricity. Many sceptics question exactly how this new compact containment technology actually works and whether it can be commercialised. Dr. S.M. Mahajan of The University of Texas physics facility claimed to have seen no technical papers published, to back up the Lockheed Martin claims and this has further encouraged the sceptics to question the viability of this claimed world changing new technology.
Meanwhile Back at the E-Cat Cold Fusion cell information remains sketchy. Because of the marginal nature of cold fusion research, most reporting tends to be speculative.
Given the potential, for global changing technical breakthrough, if cold fusion proves viable, this is understandable. The whole research into cold fusion has been buried in secrets and hype for a quarter century, so it’s business as usual. Reported financial investors and interested governmental parties continue to be rumoured. The usual rumour mill has even suggested that DARPA the US Department of Defence’s Defence Advanced Research Programs Agency has been nosing about again. This suggestion was based on the flimsiest of evidence by Ny Teknik by someone referring to a mystery customer by the rank of colonel. Perhaps Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried fast food fame is nosing about?
Cold Fusion appears to still be on the ragged edges of conventional energy research.
Whether cold fusion is actually viable is yet to be proven, though many research centres globally, including some ‘big end of town’ US advanced research labs, hold a watching brief on this technology, and some are even spending public money on research. The proof of Cold Fusion technology will be in the open commercialisation of claimed operating energy cells. If the technology works as is claimed it will change the way that the world works.
In the meantime we live in hope that either Hot Fusion research manages to take its ‘star in a bottle’, and make it work, and Cold Fusion lives up to its hype of a true world changing paradigm.