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It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, with secret laboratories and futuristic technologies, but it’s real – Lockheed Martin’s stealthy Skunk Works division just announced that it has created a compact nuclear fusion reactor that could change the way we power our world. Speaking to Aviation Week, researchers explained that they have been quietly working on a device that could produce cleaner, safer and more powerful energy than ever before.

Traditional power is generated via fission, splitting atoms to create energy. But fusion combines atoms to create a more stable form of energy. Until now, however, the technology has proven to be difficult to bring to reality in a usable way. Skunk Works, however, believes that their technology concept could be a reality within ten years and could be used to power everything from spacecraft to entire cities.

Dubbed the CFR for Compact Fusion Reactor, the reactor is the size of a jet engine, which is one of the important aspects of the technology, because in order to be useable a reactor must be small enough to be practical. Until now, reactor concepts have been so large that they could only have be used in something like an expensive power plant to power a city.

Scientists theorized that fusion powers the stars in the 1920s and the elusive idea of fusion was born. The trick for Skunk Works was in abandoning previous soviet-derived ideas and taking a completely new approach. We’ve been let down by potentially life-changing technology failing to come to life before, but with Lockheed Martin behind the project, it seems like a tantalizing possibility – and one that could truly usher in a cleaner future without the risk of meltdown and potentially unlimited power.