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.
Cue The Conspiracy Theorists
If you’ve clicked around the links provided and read much, you’ve probably seen mention of UFOs and other wild things. That shouldn’t be surprising, as the patents the Navy has been getting describe things that seem like they’ve been stolen from Starfleet, such as “inertial mass reduction” and impenetrable force fields.
On top of the surface resemblance to science fiction, there’s the resemblance to the Navy’s UFO sightings that have been in the press in recent years. The shape of the other patents, as well as their operation, appears to enable the sorts of amazing UFO maneuvering pilots and their advanced instruments have seen.
Naturally, you’ll find plenty of websites claiming that this is all based on reverse engineered alien technology. While it’s impossible to disprove those assertions, something down to earth is a more likely explanation, as much fun as aliens would be.
The Drive and others who have taken a good look at the patent documents see a lot of mentions of not only US work on these technologies, but also by the Chinese military. It could be that we are already seeing these “operable” technologies in testing. A small craft with inertial mass reduction, advanced force fields, and powered by a small fusion reactor would check a lot of boxes on military wish lists.
Whether aliens are involved and this all works or not, it is good to see developments in fusion technology continue. The clean energy benefits would be nearly inestimable.