As A Pre-Teen, He Builds His Own Fusion Reactor

With $10,000 (or less) of his parent’s money, a 14-year-old boy from Memphis, Tenn., is now being heralded as the youngest person ever to build a fusion reactor.

Oswalt reactorThe project that made Jackson Oswalt likely the youngest-ever “fusioneer,” took about two years to complete after the teenager decided to do something more with his life than video games, according to news reports.

He actually completed the project the day before his thirteenth birthday, completing the project when he was 12. So he accomplished the feat before he became a teenager.

He found all the information to do it on the Internet, he said.

According to the Commercial Appeal, there is a sign on the door to the spare room where the reactor was built that says, “Warning – X-Ray Radiation.” Another sign in the room says, “Caution – This Equipment Produces Radiation When Energized.”

The reactor uses heated deuterium gas to produce the plasma, which includes heating the gas with 50,000 volts of electricity. The reaction takes place in a vacuum chamber, which is created with a powerful turbomolecular pump.

The previous teenager who achieved a fusion reaction was Taylor Wilson of Texarkana, Arkansas, who produced plasma when he was 14 in 2008, building the reactor in his garage. Oswalt, however, has him bested in the age category by more than a year.

Oswalt knew the project was initially way over his head, but stuck with it. “Slowly, I convinced myself I could do it,” he told the Commercial Appeal.

Oswalt also said, “it takes in more energy than it produces, which is why I’m not a billionaire.”

Oswalt convinced himself it could be done, then convinced the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium that he had succeeded. “It’s pretty hard to get confirmed. You’ve got to jump through a lot of hoops to prove your work,” said Richard Hull, who is an administrator at and one of the group’s verifiers.

Hull was quoted as saying it takes “verve and nerve and courage” to build your own reactor, a feat Hull achieved when he was 52.

Hull said three were about 60 “hobbyists” who had built their own fusion reactors, although some likely have careers and college that contribute to their knowledge base. Oswalt, in contrast, only had the Internet.

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