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Science & Technology

12-year-old builds working nuclear reactor

By T.K. Randall
February 22, 2019 · Comment icon 20 comments



Jackson mainly relied on trial and error to build the reactor. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 James Smith39
Jackson Oswalt achieved the seemingly impossible by building a fusion reactor in his parents' spare room.
Whatever you might have gotten up to when you were 12, it most likely wasn't this.

Keen to avoid wasting too much time playing video games, Jackson, who is from Tennessee, developed a keen interest in building a nuclear reactor using parts acquired from Ebay.

"The start of the process was just learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors," he said. "After that, I assembled a list of parts I needed. [I] got those parts off eBay primarily and then often times the parts that I managed to scrounge off of eBay weren't exactly what I needed."

"So, I'd have to modify them to be able to do what I needed to do for my project."
With a bit of perseverance and more than a little financial support from his parents, the 12-year-old succeeded in achieving fusion just a few days before his 13th birthday.

He is now thought to be the youngest person in the world to have ever done so.

His dad, Chris Oswalt, admits that he had only a limited understanding of what his son was building.

"Being a parent of someone that was as driven as he was for 12 months was really impressive to see," he said. "I mean it was everyday grinding; everyday learning something different; everyday failing and watching him work through all those things."

Source: Lad Bible | Comments (20)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #11 Posted by HermeticLabyrinthos 4 years ago
Awesome post thank you
Comment icon #12 Posted by bison 4 years ago
Quite right! Fusion†reactors,†like the one this young man built, are based on one designed and built by Philo T. Farnsworth, pioneer television inventor, some years ago. These have even been commercially developed as a neutron source for†scientific research and for creating isotopes used in medicine. The problem, as you say, is that they use more energy than they produce. In their present form they could not be used to generate power. Modified designs that use the same method-- called electrostatic inertial confinement-- seem to promise greater efficiency, possibly to the point of net energy p... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by sepulchrave 4 years ago
Just to add, the very first image in the Wikipedia entry on the Farnsworth Fusor is a reactor that was also built by a (slightly older) kid. So, Oswalt's work is still impressive, but he isn't the first kid to do it. It is also not so dangerous (as others have pointed out). Possibly lots of opportunities for Oswalt to electrocute himself while building it, but it is impossible to nuke the neighbourhood or release clouds of radioactive, etc.
Comment icon #14 Posted by EnderOTD 4 years ago
*wipes sweat from brow* †
Comment icon #15 Posted by Rolci 4 years ago
If you thought he was a genius, then what about Ukrainian schoolboy Samuil Kruhliak who invented a way of producing electricity from the atmosphere at $1.40 / MEGAwatt back in 2015? http://day.kyiv.ua/en/article/economy/one-kilowatt-003-hryvnias I have been looking for developments on that project for all these years since and thought he was shut down too but now I found the latest: https://www.slavorum.org/young-ukrainian-genius-found-a-way-to-produce-electricity-from-the-wind-and-no-its-not-windmills/ Why isn't that news around here?
Comment icon #16 Posted by lightly 4 years ago
Wait...there was a house there ! ?
Comment icon #17 Posted by bison 4 years ago
Most of the accounts of Samuil Kruhliak's idea for energy extraction from the atmosphere date from 2015, when he won a science competition, and a full†university scholarship in the United States. He proposes to extract electrical energy from the the skies; the same electricity that is responsible for lightning† The only more recent report is supposed to be three months old. It is linked below. It reports that a working laboratory model of his proposed system has been built. It is proposed that a disused factory smoke stack be used to create a full scale version of his device. Any delay in doin... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by and then 4 years ago
Yeah, yeah... but can he sing and dance?††† Seriously though, I wonder what the practical applications are for his amazing accomplishment?
Comment icon #19 Posted by danydandan 4 years ago
It's an RTG so not much danger involved, thankfully.†
Comment icon #20 Posted by aztek 4 years ago
because old theories do not get as much attention as built and running device. Samuel's device is basically lord kelvins water drop generator. it is very inefficient, you wont get much power out of it. maybe that is why we do not have it in use.†


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