IEC Fusion

Although most funding of fusion research has been focused on tokamak and laser implosion devices, new developments in IEC (inertial electrostatic confinement) fusion using quasi-spherical magnetic fields may offer an important breakthrough.

The following document presents Dr. Robert Bussard's IEC fusion research at EMC2 over the past 17 years, as given at a Google Tech Talk lecture.
The video of this talk, from which this document was based, can be found at: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606

Dr. Bussard also gave this talk at Yahoo! on April 10, 2007. It is similar to the Google talk, except he spoke more about the impact on the world towards the end of the talk. A video of this talk is only available internally to Yahoo! employees.

The paper mentioned in the above video and article that describes his research in more detail can be found at:
The advantages of IEC fusion over tokamaks and other alternatives is detailed in the following article. This article was reformatted and updated in July 2007 with color pdf illustrations:
A review article of electrostatic plasma confinement and magnetic electrostatic plasma confinement (MEPC) that includes a discussion of the IEC Polywell approach is provided here:

Robert Bussard summarized the results and conclusions of the WB-6 program:

IEC Fusion Physics


Detailed physics of IEC fusion are detailed in the following papers. These articles were reformatted and updated in July and August 2007 with color pdf illustrations:

IEC Fusion and Spaceflight

Dr. Bussard has written several papers concerning the usage of IEC fusion in space flight. These articles were updated in May-August 2007 by reformatting and adding color pdf illustrations:

IEC Fusion Publicity


Mention of IEC fusion research was made in the following articles:

Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation Inertial-Electrodynamic Fusion (IEF) Device was the winner of the 2006 Outstanding Technology of the Year Award by the International Academy of Science
Two sites with additional information on IEC fusion have been provided by Joe Strout at:

Information on EMC2 Fusion Development Corporation, a charitable research and development organization with a focus on fusion can be found at:

In April 2007, Dr. Robert Bussard, stated that due to the publicity from his 11/9/2006 talk at Google and the 2006 Outstanding Technology of the Year Award, the U.S. Navy sent him a contract extension at no cost. There was no funding attached to it at that time. Subsequently, on August 21, 2007, EMC2 received DOD funding for its Phase I research in Albuquerque, NM to construct the WB-7 and WB-8 machines, to validate the WB-6 results.

EMC2 Reports

Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation reports from 1990 and 1991 relating to aspects of IEC Fusion are:
There are over 100 Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation subsequent papers and final reports on its IEC fusion research that remain classified as per the US Navy publishing embargo. However, a report on the WB-6 can be found here:
  • EMC2 Inertial-Electrostatic Fusion (IEF) Development: Final Successful Tests of WB-6; October/November 2005, Robert W. Bussard and R. Michael Wray, EMC2-0806-04, August 4, 2006.

EMC2 Reports (reformatted)

The following Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation reports have been reformatted:

EMC2 Patents

Dr. Bussard’s last patent application:

Tom Ligon Articles

Tom Ligon has written numerous articles and presentations on IEC fusion and its applications:

Polywell Blog Posts

John Smith has asked that we post the following Polywell blog posts:
  • Possibilities, December 10, 2011—markets for Polywell
  • The Startup, February 2, 2012—suggestions for a venture capital pitch
  • Green Sun, July 12, 2012—review of Charles Grey’s book, A Green Sun
  • Polywell Physics, July 30, 2012—how the WB6 works
  • How It Works, September 10, 2012—how Polywell fusion works, with citations

“Current” Status

As of September 2009, EMC2 was awarded a $7,855,504 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing for a WB-8 machine. It is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 as a Research, Development, Test and Evaluation plan. The magnetic electron containment coils of WB-8 will be redesigned to minimize electron loss and maximize plasma confinement. WB-6 and WB-7 were operated at a pulsed magnetic field strength of 0.1 Tesla. WB-8 will be operated at a pulsed magnetic field strength of 0.8 Tesla.

As part of the contract, a predictive computational model of the WB behavior for detailed two-dimensional and three-dimensional profile predictions of its plasma density, ion energy and magnetic field structure will be provided.

An optional WB8.1 machine may be developed for an additional $4,455,077. It would have higher ion drive capabilities, with the intent of demonstrating a pB11 reaction. (The ion drive system will be able to inject either ionized hydrogen or ionized boron 11.)

A second objective is to demonstrate improved confinement, ion energy, and fusion reactivity; as well as to update the previously developed computational model.

While EMC2 owns the commercialization rights for the Polywell, as of March 2010, it cannot do this with its DOD funding. Contributions to the New Mexico Community Foundation website will enable:
  • Designing an attractive commercial reactor package.
  • Identify the high leverage physics items that most impact the design (i.e. how good is good enough).
  • Provides a base design when we are ready to proceed to the next step.
The results of the WB-8 research are summarized here:
The following June 2014 paper discusses experimental results validating the Polywell fusion concept that high β plasma operation dramatically improves high energy electron confinement in a magnetic cusp system:

IEC 2009

The 11th United States - Japan workshop on Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion was held October 12-13, 2009 in Madison, WI at the University of Wisconsin Fusion Technology Institute. The conference papers can be found at:

Related Fusion Articles

Papers that are frequently cited in the above references include:

A paper on the application of neutrons generated from an IEF fusion source to treat radioactive waste:
Dr. Bussard died at age 79 on October 6, 2007 of cancer. In his memory, here are some articles that he wrote over his career.

On September 4, 2009; Dolly H Gray, executor for the Robert W. Bussard Estate, provided permission to republish his papers that had been reformatted and provided with color illustrations and updated references on this site.