Dr Bussard is the former Assistant Director of the US Atomic Energy Commission, he was the father of the US Fusion effort from the 1970's into the 1980's. As the Assistant Dir. of the AEC, Dr. Bussard went to Congress and pushed the fusion research programs in the 70's that developed the Tokamak design.
Dr Bussard now advocates a different design. For the last 11 years he has been working under US Navy contracts, building small test devices.
WB4 in 2003. Yes, low levels of fusion can be created in a very small device
WB6 in 2005. WB6 was run in steady state operation for a number of tests before a short stopped testing.
At the end of 2005, the Navy did not renew his contract. Since then Dr Bussard has given many lectures including the (famous in fusion circles) google tech talk of 2006. Video here:
DR Bussard was awarded the International Academy of Science Outstanding technology of the Year, award for 2006.
Why is this important? World oil production peaked in May of 2005. Dr Bussard says for 200 million he can build a proof of concept reactor by about 2011. The ITER reactor in Europe will be finished by 2013, and the concept may be ready for power generation by 2025. The ITER is slated to cost 13.3 billion. More importantly $3 million keeps Dr. Bussard working. The next step is build variations on the 3 foot square WB6, to test tweaks in the design, before building a full size model. DR Bussard envisions the full size reactor to be about 9 foot square.
When the father of modern fusion tells you the Tokamak wont work, he bears listening to. Funny thing about fusion, it occurs naturally in a sphere (the SUN), just like Dr Bussards design. The ITER reactor will try to create fusion in a donut or torus, which doesn't happen in nature. Its been pointed out to me that that is an oversimplification, yes it is, but I like it none the less.
Heres an overview of Bussards recent work with some really cool pictures. This will give one a good sense of how the program has advanced over the years, and what to look forward to. Word had gotten around earlier this month that Dr. Bussard had received more funding thru the US Navy. This apparently is not true, Tom Ligon set that rumor straight here.
Dr. Bussard will be utilizing a non profit organization to continue his research. Please pass this linkaround.
The 2007 International Space Development Conference (ISDA) will be held, May 25th thru the 28th, in Dallas Texas. Tom Ligon will be speaking on IEC/Polywell fusion. This event is sponsored by NASA.