Jackson Oswalt has become the “youngest person” to build a functional nuclear reactor by completing the project when he was a 12-year-old boy. The creation was part of an atomic fusion experiment and was constructed from parts he was able to purchase on eBay, totaling about $10,000. Amateur physicists in an online forum were even able to verify his findings.
Oswalt, who is from Memphis and is now 14, successfully crafted a nuclear fusion reactor in a spare room of his family’s home, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
The reactor was built using customized vacuums, chambers, and pumps; all purchased on eBay by his parents.
The boy’s machine smashes atoms together with sufficient force to fuse them, allowing energy trapped in the atoms to be released.
Details about the reactor were reviewed online on January 19, 2018, just hours before Oswalt turned 13.
Taylor Wilson was the previous record holder for being the youngest person to successfully craft a nuclear fusion reactor, being 14 years old at the time.
Oswalt worked to beat Wilson’s record.
“The start of the process was just learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors,” said Oswalt. “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.”
Oswalt says that gathering the parts, with a total value of around $10,000, was easier than putting it all together and testing the reactor. He relied heavily on trial and error, as well as the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, an online forum filled with amateur physicists.
“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,” said Oswalt. “Eventually all those pieces of the puzzle came together to make a good project.”
Oswalt’s father, Chris Oswalt, didn’t fully understand what his son was working on but made sure his son consulted with experts regarding safety and the potentially deadly dangers of working on the reactor.
“Being a parent of someone that was as driven as he was for 12 months was really impressive to see,” said Chris. “I mean it was everyday grinding; Everyday learning something different; everyday failing and watching him work through all those things.”
Oswalt posted his results to the online forum regularly, and was able to achieve fusion on January 19, 2018, by combining two deuterium gas atoms in the reactor’s plasma core.