Thanks to Ivy Matt for the following report:
Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation (aka EMC2) is currently studying the feasibility of net power from fusion using Dr. Robert Bussard’s Polywell confinement concept.
The U.S. Navy awarded them a contract in 2009, with the money coming from the Recovery Act. The Recovery Act requires quarterly updates from recipients of Recovery Act money. The latest update (for the Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2010 quarter) was recently posted. EMC2’s latest update can be seen here.
The device under testing is known as the WB-8. I had assumed it would begin testing in the early summer of 2010, as the device was due to be completed by Apr. 30, 2010, but it looks like they didn’t really start testing until the fall. They achieved first plasma on Nov. 1, 2010, a little over a year after FF-1 achieved first pinch. Their final report is due at the end of this April, so they only have six months of testing. Note that the WB-8 isn’t intended to be a net power machine. What it is intended to do is thoroughly test the scaling properties of the Polywell design to see if a net power reactor is practicable.
Also, EMC2 will only be testing D+D fusion in the WB-8. However, if the results are promising enough, they have an option to extend their contract to test p+B11 fusion. If they do, the new device (WB-8.1) will be due by Oct. 31, 2011, and the final report will be due a year later.
If either the WB-8 or the WB-8.1 produces promising results, EMC2 will go on to build the WB-D, a 100 MW demonstration reactor.