As nations spend billions to build football-sized nuclear fusion reactors – the evasive process of harnessing energy from the fusion of atoms, rather than separating them – a 12-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee, has just become the the youngest person to ever carry out nuclear fusion.
Its performance was recorded by Guinness Book of Records. Just hours before he turned 13, Jackson Oswalt managed to fuse two deuterium atoms in a fusion reactor he built – in his parents’ house. From now on, it is official that it will go down in history through this success.
According to Jackson, he was the only person to work on the reactor in both the design and production stages. “The temperature in my oven varies, but it’s about a hundred million degrees (Kelvin),” Jackson said in the Guinness World Records video accompanying the announcement.
“I was able to use electricity to accelerate two deuterium atoms together so that they fuse into a helium atom 3 (isotope), which also releases a neutron that can be used to heat water and to it transforms a steam engine which, in turn, produces electricity “, he explained in the clip.
Jackson was inspired by Taylor Wilson, who held the previous record at the age of 14. Building a DIY fusion reactor – though not one that can generate more energy than you put into it, a holy grail among energy researchers – is a challenging but achievable task.
“There were a few moments during the project where I had some reservations,” Jackson’s mother admitted. “I certainly researched before I let him build something like that.” She also added that “his son did an extraordinary job.”