Is the US Navy trying to Patent a Fusion Reactor?

The United States Navy is trying to patent a new hot fusion reactor design. Specifically, the Naval Air Warfare Center-Aircraft Division has applied for a patent on a “Plasma Compression Fusion Device,” The Drive’s War Zone claims.

United States Patent Application 20190295733 describes: “A plasma compression fusion device which includes a hollow duct and at least one pair of opposing counter-spinning dynamic fusors.” The Navy applied for the patent on 22 March 2019 and the US Patent Office published the patent on 26 September 2019.

The device could consist of a vacuum chamber to house a plasma core, and magnetic fields to confine the plasma. Theoretically, the device could achieve thermonuclear fusion by heating Deuterium-Tritium; or Deuterium-Deuterium, gases to temperatures of 175 million degrees Celsius, or 232 million degrees Celsius.

Plasma compression fusion device could generate one trillion watts of power

The Navy could use heat from the Plasma Fusion Compression Device to generate steam to power a warship.

The Navy is researching fusion because a fusion a fusion reactor could theoretically power ships but create no pollution while using little or no fuel. The patent claims the patent fusion device could generate between one gigawatt (one billion watts) and one terawatt (one trillion watts) of electricity.

Hence, one plasma fusion device could theoretically power an aircraft carrier or a city while generating no pollution. Moreover, the Navy theoretically could generate that power with a tiny amount of Deuterium-Tritium or Deuterium-Deuterium.

Why the Navy Wants Fusion

Thus, one use of fusion could be to power the Navy without oil or nuclear power.

Another use of fusion is to lower the risk of climate change by getting rid of fossil fuels. Moreover, the Navy could scrap the radioactive fission reactors that power its aircraft carriers and submarines.

In addition, the Navy could harness Plasma Fusion compression to power a jet. To explain, blasts of super-heated air push jets through the sky. In addition, turbojets; which use gas turbines to power turbofans, propel many planes.

Hence, Plasma Fusion Compression could lead to bigger and more powerful aircraft that stay in the air longer. There could be many military uses for fusion-powered aircraft.

Finally, the Navy could no longer need to deploy ships, aircraft, and people to protect oil fields if fusion works. Plus, the Navy could stop worrying about protecting oil tankers at sea.

The patent lists Salvatore Cezar Pais as the inventor of the Plasma Fusion Compression Device. In addition, the patent application describes the device as similar to fusion reactors proposed by Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE: LMT) Skunk Works and researchers at Princeton University.

Will the Plasma Fusion Compression Device Work

Unfortunately, we lack many important details of the Plasma Fusion Compression Device.

For instance, we do not know how big the device will be or how much it could cost to build. In addition, no timetable for the device’s completion or testing is available. Hence the patent is just a proposal for a new fusion device.

Nor is there any evidence the Navy is planning to build or test the Plasma Fusion Compression Device. Notably, I think the Navy would have to ask Congress for several billion dollars for such research and development.

Personally, I think the Navy could have a hard time getting Congressional Republicans and President Donald J. Trump (R-New York); who rely on campaign donations from fossil fuel interests, to approve such funding. However, some Democrats including presidential candidate Andrew Yang (D-New York) are sympathetic to fusion research.

Is Fusion for Real?

Notably, there are no working fusion reactors in the world today. However, several companies and organizations are trying to build one.

In particular, Commonwealth Fusion Systems has raised $114 million in investments to finance its efforts to commercial fusion research from MIT. Commonwealth’s Investors reportedly include Bill Gates and the Italian national oil company Eni S.P.A. (NYSE: E).

In the UK, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy near Oxford could produce “a detailed design for the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP); a plant capable of generating hundreds of megawatts of net electrical energy that would be up and running by the early 2040s,” Nature claims. Her Majesty’s Government budgeted £200 million ($248 million) to the STEP project on 3 October 2019.

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKEA) hopes to begin work on a commercial version of STEP as early as 2024, Nature claims. Furthermore, Commonwealth Fusion claims it could have a 100 megawatt (100 million watt) to 500 megawatt (500 million watt) fusion reactor operating as early as 2030.

Such claims are dubious because nobody has achieved a sustained and stable fusion reaction. However, fusion the ultimate disruptive energy technology could become a reality in just 11 years.