At just 12 years old, Jackson Oswalt became the youngest person to build a nuclear fusion reactor in his home. He was able to use the nuclear fusion reactor to fuse two deuterium atoms together. (Image Credit: Guinness World Records)
Is this the real-life Sheldon Cooper? Jackson Oswalt, a 12-year old genius from Memphis, Tennessee, constructed a functional, tiny nuclear fusion reactor in his family's playroom, just hours before his 13th birthday on January 2018. This makes him the youngest known person to have accomplished such a feat, fusing two deuterium atoms together. His incredible accomplishment allowed him to be featured in the Guinness World Records.
Jackson first learned about nuclear fusion when he was just 12 years old while researching about it online. Taylor Wilson, a self-taught physicist who previously held the record when he was 14 years old, inspired Jackson to construct his own fusor. Jackson was also the only one involved in the production or design of this project.
He says that the temperature in the fusor varies, but it's around 100 million degrees, Kelvin.
"I've been able to use electricity to accelerate two atoms of deuterium together so they fuse into an atom of helium-3 and also release a neutron, which can be used to heat up of water and turn a steam engine, which in turn produces electricity," Jackson Oswalt says in the video.
"I won't be doing full-on fusion, but I'll still be creating a plasma within the chamber here," Oswalt says. "I'd say the hardest part was trying to figure out how to make the seal airtight on the chamber, so I spent about probably half a year trying to get the seal correct."
Jackson says this fusion reactor can heat up water, turning a steam engine, which produces electricity. I also love the use of aluminum extrusion for the frame. (Image Credit: Guinness World Records)
However, he wasn't always certain he'd be able to achieve nuclear fusion. "I was unable to achieve a strong enough vacuum to 'ignite' the fusion reaction, but with perseverance, I achieved my goal," Jackson says.
In his home, Jackson's lab is pretty large, and he says there are just too many parts to write down. While the pandemic has forced him to stay at home, he's been looking into a huge amount of learning material online and has been further researching his interests. Now 15 years old, Jackson doesn't conduct experiments that frequently, but instead, he's searching for his next best thing.
Creating your own fusion reactor at home can be a challenging but achievable task with the help of an online community.
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