Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor (also known as a high-beta
fusion reactor, or the 4th-generation prototype T4) is a project being
developed by a team led by Charles Chase of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk
Works. The project was first presented at the Google
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Solve for X forum
on February 7, 2013.
The "high-beta" configuration allows a compact fusion reactor design
and speedier development timeline. The plan was to "build and test a
compact fusion reactor in less than a year with a prototype to follow
within five years". The prototype would be a 100-megawatt deuterium
and tritium reactor measuring 7 by 10 feet (2.1 by 3.0 m) that
could fit on the back of a large truck and would be about one tenth
the size of current reactor prototypes.
High beta implies that the ratio of plasma pressure to the magnetic
pressure is 1 (or even higher), compared to tokamak designs that reach
3.3 TX Reactor
4 Intellectual property
6 See also
8 External links
Lockheed Martin project began in 2010.
In October 2014
Lockheed Martin announced that they would attempt to
develop a compact fusion reactor that would fit "on the back of a
truck" and produce 100 MW output – enough to power a town of
The chief designer and technical team lead for the Compact Fusion
Reactor (CFR) is Thomas McGuire. McGuire studied fusion as a source
of space propulsion in graduate school in response to a
NASA desire to
improve travel times to Mars.
In May 2016, Rob Weiss announced that
Lockheed Martin continued to
support the project and would increase its investment in it.
A sketch of the plasma geometry and magnetic coils inside an early
model of Lockheed Martins' compact fusion reactor. This design has
since been superseded with a model using only two main cusps.
CFR plans to achieve high beta (the ratio of plasma pressure to the
magnetic pressure) by combining cusp confinement and magnetic mirrors
to confine the plasma. Cusps are sharply bent magnetic fields.
Ideally, the plasma forms a sheath along the surface of the cusps and
plasma leaks out along the axis and edges of the sharply bent
field. The plasma lost along the edges recycles back into the
CFR uses two mirror sets. A pair of ring mirrors is placed inside the
cylindrical reactor vessel at either end. The other mirror set
encircles the reactor cylinder. The ring magnets produce a type of
magnetic field known as a diamagnetic cusp, in which magnetic forces
rapidly change direction and push the nuclei towards the midpoint
between the two rings. The fields from the external magnets push the
nuclei back towards the vessel ends.
Magnetic field strength is an increasing function of distance from the
center. This implies that as the plasma pressure causes the plasma to
expand, the magnetic field becomes stronger at the plasma edge,
CFR innovatively employs superconducting magnets. These allow strong
magnetic fields to be created with less energy than conventional
magnets. The CFR has no net current, which Lockheed claimed eliminates
the prime source of plasma instabilities. The plasma has a favorable
surface-to-volume ratio, which improves confinement. The plasma's
small volume reduces the energy needed to achieve fusion.
The project plans to replace the microwave emitters that heat the
plasma in their prototypes with neutral beam injection, in which
electrically neutral deuterium atoms transfer their energy to the
plasma. Once initiated, the energy from fusion maintains the necessary
temperature for subsequent fusion events.
Lockheed Martin is initially targeting a relatively small device that
is approximately the size of a conventional jet engine. The prototype
is approximately 1 meter by 2 meters in size. The eventual device may
reach 7001210000000000000♠21 m in width. The company claims
that this enables a much faster development cycle since each design
iteration is shorter and far lower cost than large-scale projects such
Joint European Torus
Joint European Torus or ITER.
A 7008200000000000000♠200 MW Pth reactor,
7001180000000000000♠18 m long by 7000700000000000000♠7 m
in diameter, produces about a 7003200000000000000♠2000 ton
reactor, similar in size to an A5W nuclear submarine fission
Ring magnets require protection from the plasma's neutron radiation.
Plasma temperatures must reach many millions of kelvins.
Superconducting magnets must be kept just above absolute zero to
The "blanket" component that lines the reactor vessel has two
functions: it captures the neutrons and transfers their energy to a
coolant and forces the neutrons to collide with lithium atoms,
transforming them into tritium to fuel the reactor. The blanket would
be an estimated 80–150 cm thick and weigh 300–1000 tons.
Technical results presented on the T4 experiment in 2015 showed a
cold, partially ionized plasma with the following parameters: peak
electron temperature of 20 Electron volts,
7016100000000000000♠1016 m−3 electron density, less than 1%
ionization fraction and 7003300000000000000♠3 kW of input
power. No confinement or fusion reaction rates were
Two theoretical reactor concepts were presented by Tom McGuire in
2015. An ideal configuration weighing 200 metric tons with 1 meter of
cryogenic radiation shielding and 15 tesla magnets. A conservative
configuration weighing 2,000 metric tons, 2 meters of cryogenic
radiation shielding, and 5 Tesla magnets was presented.
The T4B prototype was announced in 2016.
1 m diameter × 2 m long
1 MW, 25 keV H-neutral beam heating power
3 ms duration
Assume 7005500000000000000♠500 kW is converted into fast ions.
n = 7019500000000000000♠5×1019 m−3
β = 1 (field = 6999100000000000000♠0.1 T)
V = 0.2 m3, 7003117000000000000♠1170 J total energy
Peak Ti = 6983120163236525000♠75 eV
Peak Te = 6983400544121750000♠250 eV
Peak sheath loss = 7005228000000000000♠228 kW, about equal to
Peak ring cusp loss = 7004150000000000000♠15 kW
Peak axial cusp loss = 7003100000000000000♠1 kW
7 m diameter × 18 m long, 1 m thick blankets
320 MW gross
40 MW heating power, 2.3 s
n = 7020500000000000000♠5×1020 m−3
β = 1 (field = 2.3 T)
V = 16.3 m3, 51 MJ total energy
Ti = 9.6 keV
Te = 12.6 keV
In February 2018, was granted one patent for its project. It
applied for three others.
Physics professor and director of the UK's national Fusion laboratory
Steven Cowley called for more data, pointing out that the current
thinking in fusion research is that "bigger is better". Other fusion
reactors achieve 8 times improvement in heat confinement when machine
size is doubled.
ARC fusion reactor
Beta (plasma physics)
Inertial electrostatic confinement
^ FuseNet: The European Fusion Education Network, archived from the
original on 2013-05-06
^ Shalal, Andrea. "Lockheed says makes breakthrough on fusion energy
project". Reuters. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
^ a b c d e Wang, Brian (May 3, 2016). "Lockheed Portable Fusion
project still making progress". Next Big Future. Retrieved
^ a b c d Nathan, Stuart (22 October 2014). "New details on compact
fusion reveal scale of challenge". The Engineer. Retrieved 24 December
^ Norris, Guy (20 October 2014). "Fusion Frontier". Aviation Week
& Space Technology.
^ Hedden, Carole (2014-10-20). "Meet The Leader Of Skunk Works'
Compact Fusion Reactor Team". Aviation Week & Space Technology.
^ Norris, Guy (15 October 2014), "
Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion
Reactor Details", Aviation Week & Space Technology, archived from
the original on 2014-10-17, retrieved 18 October 2014
^ Norris, Guy (14 October 2014), "High Hopes – Can Compact Fusion
Unlock New Power For Space And Air Transport?", Aviation Week &
Space Technology, archived from the original on 18 October 2014
^ Hedden, Carole (20 October 2014), "The Leader Of Skunk Works'
Compact Fusion Reactor Team", Aviation Week & Space Technology,
archived from the original on 18 October 2014
^ Mehta, Aaron (May 3, 2016). "Lockheed Still Supporting Portable
Nuclear Generator". Retrieved 2016-07-27.
^ McGuire, Thomas. "The
Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor."
Thursday Colloquium. Princeton University, Princeton. 6 Aug. 2015.
^ Talbot, David (October 20, 2014). "Does
Lockheed Martin Really Have
a Breakthrough Fusion Machine?". Technology Review. Retrieved 24
^ a b "
Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor Concept, Confinement
Model and T4B Experiment" (PDF).
Lockheed Martin Corporation. 2016.
Archived from the original (PDF) on December 25, 2017. Retrieved 25
^ wang, brian (1 May 2017). "Lockheed compact fusion reactor design
about 100 times larger than first plans". NextBigFuture.com. New big
future Inc. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
^ Sullivan, Regina (November 20, 2015). "Preliminary density and
temperature measurements in Lockheed Martin's magnetically
encapsulated linear ring cusp confinement configuration". 57th Annual
Meeting of the APS Division of Plasma Physics. 60 (10).
^ US 20180047462A1 Encapsulating Magnetic Fields for Plasma
^ US application 2014301518, Thomas John McGuire, "Magnetic Field
Plasma Confinement for Compact Fusion Power"
^ US application 2014301519, Thomas John McGuire, "Heating Plasma for
Fusion Power Using Magnetic Field Oscillation"
^ US application 2014301517, Thomas John McGuire, "Active Cooling of
Structures Immersed in Plasma"
^ McGarry, Brendan (16 October 2014), "Scientists Skeptical of
Lockheed's Fusion Breakthrough", DefenseTech', retrieved 23 October
Lockheed Martin Compact Reactor design page
Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion on YouTube
Solve for X: Charles Chase on energy for everyone on YouTube