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Tue Feb 19, 2019, 07:43 PM

Teen builds working nuclear fusion reactor in Memphis home

By Charles Watson | Fox News

02/19/2019

MEMPHIS, Tenn.- Some kids spend their time on social media, other kids spend their time playing video games. When it comes to 14-year-old Jackson Oswalt, his time is spent in a laboratory working on a nuclear fusion reactor.

The Memphis teen finished his reactor and achieved fusion at the age of 13. He’s regarded by experts as the youngest in America – maybe even the world – to accomplish it. Jackson built a steel machine made up of vacuums, pumps and chambers that is capable of smashing atoms together through force in a smoking hot plasma center that releases a burst of fusion energy. If you’ve ever wondered how the sun and other stars are powered, the process within Jackson’s nuclear fusion reactor is comparable.

He began working on the fusion reactor at 12 years old, after concluding that he didn’t want to dedicate his leisure time solely to playing games like Fortnite. He began scouring the Internet for nuclear-related things because that’s what he says held his interest. Yes — at 12 years old.

During his research, Jackson came across Taylor Wilson, who in 2008 at 14 years old garnered international recognition as the youngest person to achieve fusion after building a nuclear fusion reactor in his parents’ garage in Texarkana, Ark.

https://www.foxnews.com/science/teen-builds-working-nuclear-fusion-reactor-in-memphis-home

Jackson, like any 12-year-old would, thought he could at least try to beat the record set by Wilson. From there he got to work.

“The start of the process was just learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors,” explained the mild-mannered teen. “After that, I assembled a list of parts I needed. 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.”

Building the nuclear fusion reactor was no game for Jackson. He converted an old playroom in his Memphis home into a functioning lab. With the financial support of his parents – he spent between $8,000 and $10,000 over the course of a year collecting the parts he needed to build his nuclear fusion reactor – that was apparently the easy part.

Putting the fusion reactor together and testing to see if it worked was the real challenge. Since there isn’t exactly a manual on how to build something like that he relied on trial and error and the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, an online forum for amateur physicists, to ensure that he was taking the proper steps toward successfully building a fusion reactor and hopefully achieving fusion.

“After a while, it became pretty simple to realize how it all worked together, but at the start it was definitely figuring out one aspect of it, memorizing what that actually meant and then moving on to a different aspect of it,” Jackson said. “Eventually all those pieces of the puzzle came together to make a good project.”

ackson’s father, Chris Oswalt, had no real understanding of what his son was working on. To make sure Jackson was safe he had experts speak to him about the dangers involved with working on a potentially deadly fusion reactor, like being exposed to high levels of radiation or being electrocuted by the 50,000 volts of electricity he uses to warm the fusion reactor’s plasma core.

Outside of his safety concerns, Chris Oswalt was astonished at what his son was attempting to do.

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

Throughout the process, Jackson posted his results to the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium up until the point when he was able to achieve fusion on Jan. 19, 2018 — hours before his 13th birthday. In Jackson’s case that meant combining two atoms of deuterium gas in the fusion reactor’s plasma core which ejected a neutron into a device that slowed it down and detected nuclear fusion.

“You have to jump through the right hoops, and we have to believe you and see what you’ve done,” said Richard Hull, 72, a verifier with the research consortium and an administrator for its website Fusor.net.

Hull, a retired electronics engineer from Richmond, Va., verified both Jackson’s and Wilson’s results. He now regards Jackson as the youngest in America – possibly the world – to achieve fusion.

On a larger scale, scientists have yet to figure out how to produce a nuclear fusion reactor that, like the sun, is able to release more energy than it takes in to power things like homes and buildings.

“We are still far away from making a working nuclear fusion reactor to produce electricity so you can think about how challenging it is to make a fusion reactor,” said Dr. Jingbiao Cui, professor and chair of the Physics department at the University of Memphis.

With a young mind like Jackson interested in becoming a “nuclear engineer working on more projects like this,” scientists could work out the kinks of fusion reactors sooner rather than later.

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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply Teen builds working nuclear fusion reactor in Memphis home (Original post)
MosheFeingold Feb 2019 OP
DavidDvorkin Feb 2019 #1
MosheFeingold Feb 2019 #4
lagomorph777 Feb 2019 #16
MosheFeingold Feb 2019 #2
MontanaMama Feb 2019 #3
Oneironaut Feb 2019 #5
mitch96 Feb 2019 #6
MosheFeingold Feb 2019 #7
mitch96 Feb 2019 #12
MosheFeingold Feb 2019 #13
mitch96 Feb 2019 #14
eppur_se_muova Feb 2019 #8
ROB-ROX Feb 2019 #9
MosheFeingold Feb 2019 #15
lagomorph777 Feb 2019 #17
gristy Feb 2019 #10
MosheFeingold Feb 2019 #11

Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Tue Feb 19, 2019, 07:48 PM

1. Uh, really?

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Response to DavidDvorkin (Reply #1)

Tue Feb 19, 2019, 07:51 PM

4. Just don't ask about his cat

It's not clear if it's dead or alive.

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Response to MosheFeingold (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 02:13 PM

16. Well, he was able to make a neutron image of the cat's insides for about a second.

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Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Tue Feb 19, 2019, 07:50 PM

2. For the record

When I was 12, I was running numbers for David Berman and on my way to being a gangster.

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Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Tue Feb 19, 2019, 07:50 PM

3. Very big deal.

What an impressive undertaking for this kiddo. 👍🏼 Colleges will come knocking soon!

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Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Tue Feb 19, 2019, 08:14 PM

5. Sheldon?

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Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Tue Feb 19, 2019, 09:31 PM

6. So I tried to look up other sources of this claim....

And it's only on Fox and Fox affiliates.. So far Fusion is the holly grail of nuclear power. It would be neat if this could be scaled up...
m

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #6)

Tue Feb 19, 2019, 09:50 PM

7. Yeah

That’s why I used this source. They’re fine on hard sciences.

Note that this process still uses more energy that it produces. “Hot fusion”

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Response to MosheFeingold (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 11:50 AM

12. "uses more energy that it produces"

That's the problem.. Got to flip it around. More out, less it...
m

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #12)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 12:02 PM

13. Well, there IS a way

Keeping the "energy out" under a 100 kilotons is a bit of an issue.

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Response to MosheFeingold (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 12:06 PM

14. OH picky, picky picky....



m

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Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 01:10 AM

8. And what 13 yr old doesn't have $8-10k to indulge in his hobbies ? nt

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Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 10:30 AM

9. I have been involved with both magnetic fusion and laser fusion.

The detection mode would be a neutron meter. A simple one micro curie Americium 241 source from a smoke detector could make a neutron meter respond. The idea that 50,000 volts can "heat" a plasma is great writing. The experience of purchasing "deuterium gas" would be expensive but "tritium" gas would be much better. I would like to know about the "injection of neutrons" because we all know neutrons are not "magnetic" but maybe it was Am 241 which does release neutrons. This sure was not a "boy scout" project, but it sure was not a Tandem Mirror Experiment (TMX) or Nova Laser Fusion Experiment....I would have thought the garage would have been elected for this amazing experiment?? I think he made a plasma, he had a neutron detector (I did not see the meter connected to the detector, but I did see a vacuum pump next to the detector), a few radiation signs. Nice setup, but did it REALLY happen??? Nice talking teacher, but no video of him at house?? I liked the Laser Fusion video which is where I worked at LLNL.

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Response to ROB-ROX (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 12:19 PM

15. Cool

Do you think a "net gain" reactor will ever be possible (i.e., one that makes more energy than it uses --- in a controlled fashion, as opposed to a Dr. Strangelove fashion).

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Response to ROB-ROX (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 02:17 PM

17. There's also cavitation fusion and recently something involving nanoscale platinum/electron "gas"

Neither of which is net positive either, but all are pointing in an interesting direction.

Of course, for cheap energy, pretty hard to beat the gigantic fusion reactor that we orbit around.

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Response to MosheFeingold (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 10:31 AM

10. Huh. Who knew?

I certainly didn't know that fusion was so easy now that one of the few remaining challenges is to be the youngest person to build a working fusion reactor.

I'm going to have to rethink getting some solar on my roof and putting some batteries in my garage.

Maybe get me one of those fusion reactors instead.

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Response to gristy (Reply #10)

Wed Feb 20, 2019, 10:57 AM

11. Why stop there? Get a Mr Fussion!

In seriousness, it appears fusion is relatively easy, but requires more energy to happen than it produces. Unless one wants an uncontrolled “boom” that is.

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