With a tiny setup built in the playroom of his parent’s house and a whole lot of genius, Jackson Oswalt has just entered the Guinness World Records as the youngest person to ever achieve nuclear fusion.
Hours before becoming 13 years old, Jackson managed to fuse two deuterium atoms together in a small tabletop fusor built entirely by himself. A fusor is a device that utilizes an electric field to heat ions to extreme temperatures capable of facilitating nuclear fusion. Massive energy draw and insane temperatures make building homemade fusors an impressive feat, but there is a thriving online community that makes it possible.
In his home experiment based in Memphis, Tenessee, Jackson used his fusor to collide atoms of deuterium, a stable isotope of hydrogen, to attempt nuclear fusion.
“I have been able to use electricity to accelerate two atoms of deuterium together so that they fuse together into an atom of helium 3, which also releases a neutron that can be used to heat up water and turn a steam engine, which in turn produces electricity,” explained Jackson in the Guinness World Records video below.
Jackson Oswalt explains his achievement. Guinness World Records
You may be thinking that creating a machine capable of nuclear fusion in your family home is not the best idea. Whilst you may be onto something, Jackson, now 15, is very aware of the dangers.
“Building a fusor is a very dangerous process, mostly because of the high electricity that’s used in the reactor. Certain precautions need to be taken, such as wearing gloves to shield me,” he said.
The fusor is certainly not to be trifled with – according to Jackson, temperatures inside can reach up to 100 million degrees Kelvin.
Appearing in this year’s Guinness World Records 2021 edition for a feat achieved at the age of 12, the future is bright for the young physicist.
Fusors are becoming common as an accessible mode of entry into nuclear fusion by hobbyists. But it is not just people like Jackson that use them – they also have a commercial application. They are used by some medical institutions to produce medical isotopes, which have a wide array of uses in diagnosis and testing, as well as a source of neutrons by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace.
Sadly, fusors are not likely to see commercial use to solve the world’s clean energy needs. A typical fusor cannot produce the neutron flux that a fusion reactor would be able to, and the energy input far outweighs the potential energy output with technology as it stands.
Still, a new generation of young scientists involved in nuclear physics pushes us one step closer to a cleaner future.