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Compact Fusion Reactor?

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  • Compact Fusion Reactor?

    Did The US Navy Solve Clean Energy With A Compact Fusion Reactor?

    In a recent US Patent application (h/t The Drive), we find not only a seemingly outlandish device that could change the course of human history, but also some clues that this technology could be operational (or nearly operational).

    In the patent, Salvatore Pais, of the US Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), claims to have invented a compact fusion reactor. With a size of between 0.3 and 2 meters (1 foot to 6.5 feet), the patent claims that the device could generate between a gigawatt and a terawatt, while needing far less energy input than it produces.

    This power output and size is especially amazing when you consider current fission power plants. For example, Arizona’s Palo Verde plant (the largest in the United States) produces around 3.3 gigawatts of electrical power in a facility that requires 4,000 acres of land and is situated away from populated areas as much as possible.

    If you’re skeptical of this development, the skepticism is very much justified. Various governmental and private groups have spent billions of dollars over decades trying to figure out fusion power. After all, it’s extremely challenging to copy what happens in the middle of the sun and other similar stars, and assuming you get that going, keep that immense energy from destroying the reactor and continuing to produce power.

    People keep chasing fusion because it would be much better than today’s fission reactors. Fission reactors require nasty radioactive substances for fuel, are quite dangerous in the event of failure, and produce nasty radioactive substances you need to put somewhere safe. All of this not only drives up the cost of producing power, but also makes people want to avoid having such plants near where they live and work. With far less dangerous fuel, no risk of a nuclear explosion, and far less dangerous waste products, fusion power doesn’t have the downsides or fear factor of today’s nuclear power plants.

    But Is This For Real?
    Naturally, this leads to the question of why we should think this patent is going somewhere after decades and billions of dollars have already been spent, with no real success. Why should we think this guy succeeded where all of the others have failed?

    While there’s no way to know for sure, we do know that military leadership has gone to bat for him before on his other controversial patents. When a patent for a seemingly far-fetched propulsion system was denied because patent examiners didn’t find the claims credible, documents were sent in to convince the Patent Office to approve the patent. The Drive reports:

    “However, in these patent documents, the inventor Salvatore Pais, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s (NAWCAD) patent attorney Mark O. Glut, and the U.S. Naval Aviation Enterprise’s Chief Technology Officer Dr. James Sheehy, all assert that these inventions are not only enabled, but operable.”

    They went on to explain that a patent doesn’t need to be “operable” to be granted, only “enabled.” “Operable” patents have actually been proven possible and actually work, while “enabled” patents are only seemingly workable theories of operation that may ultimately prove to not work in the real world.

    Perhaps more importantly, those who vouched for the patents’ operability are taking personal risk if the patent proves to be sitting upon a throne of lies. Making such bold assertions in such documents, if knowingly false, is a crime.

    While no such documents have been provided for this most recent fusion reactor patent, the patent was nonetheless put through the process without a denial like past patents. The most seemingly outlandish claims, like the mechanism used for magnetic containment, were vouched for in the process of getting the past patents through the process.

    We do need to be clear that this doesn’t prove that there are such reactors working, but it does show that the US Navy is quite serious about this patent and the others, and it’s probably not a hoax.
    CleanTechnica: Did The US Navy Solve Clean Energy With A Compact Fusion Reactor?.
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  • #2
    The US Navy has been enthusiastically funding alternative fusion technology research. One of their projects involves work with a scientist from Lockheed Martin who supposedly was close to achieving a working prototype of a “cold” fusion reactor.
    Did my dog just fall into a pothole???