Fourteen-year-old Jackson Oswalt, a native of Memphis, is a seemingly mundane eighth-grade school goer in most ways. He hangs around with his buddies, enjoys going to school, and plays video games here and there. But it is what he sometimes does at home that is far from mundane: he loves working on the nuclear reactor he built at his home from the time he was just twelve years old.
He embarked on this journey of learning about nuclear science when he came across the story of Taylor Wilson, another fourteen-year-old teen who also built a nuclear reactor in the garage of his residence in the year 2008, in Reno, in the state of Nevada. This achievement made Taylor the youngest ever person to accomplish nuclear fusion. His work earned him commendations and awards. In fact, he was also visited by former President of The United States, Barrack Obama. Taylor Wilson, who is now aged 24, is engaged in research in order to amend and render nuclear fusion additionally competent.
Taylor Wilson was the holder of the record of being the youngest person to attain nuclear fusion till January of 2018 when Jackson Oswalt dethroned him of this record by achieving nuclear fusion at age twelve. Jackson’s outcomes were confirmed by a forum of physicists and hobbyist from fusor.net. He is now the youngest individual to have successfully built a functioning nuclear reactor.
It was the story of Taylor Wilson that made Oswalt capable of this feat. It really appealed to his competitive side.
In order to complete this, he needed to acquire a nuclear fusion primer. It is a process that is used to harvest energy by smashing atoms. Thankfully, it is much less dangerous than the process of fission, which nuclear power plants employ to harvest energy. Fusion also eliminates the hazard of meltdowns and the production of radioactive waste.
Fusion requires the generation of a 100 million degree Celsius of heat, which in turn implies that the procedure requires much more input energy than the output. Scientists have been working to reduce this, but have not had much progress with it.
In spite of all the challenges which Oswalt had to overcome, he pursued his vision of building it nonetheless. He started his work by investigating the parts and tools he would require and also the time that it would take him to build. He learned pretty fast and his experience with working in the woodshop with his grandfather had boosted his confidence to go forward with building the nuclear reactor.
The motivating factor for Oswalt was the fact that he had the chance to become the youngest individual in the history of our civilization to accomplish nuclear fusion.
He researched and followed the examples of how other individuals constructed their reactors. Following which, he constructed a list of things which he was to require, that amounted to almost $10,000. It definitely was a huge blessing on his part that his parents were fully supportive of his idea even though they did not understand it very well.
In his residence in the city Memphis, Oswalt converted his former playroom into a laboratory to construct his reactor in. His foundations were the fruits of the labor of people who had achieved it prior to him. He relied on it to enhance his project.
The fact that his project involved 50,000 volts of electricity and radioactive materials did not really challenge Oswalt. But the safety concerns of his parents urged him to seek consultation with someone who could provide him with instructions.
Searching for a nuclear physicist for consultation was an uphill task which did not achieve fruition. So, in the end, one of his physics faculties was consulted who was keen on providing his guidance in the project. The family, concerned about radiation, also recruited help from researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and a physics professor from Christian Brothers University so that he could know how to insulate himself.
Oswalt kept his project details to himself mostly, in addition to his parents as well as other people who were helping him, of course. Most of his peers were skeptical of his endeavor and so were his teachers. But upon witnessing that Oswalt was absolutely solemn about his project, he received much support and recognition.
Meanwhile, Jackson kept posting updates about the advancement of his project on Fusor.net, beseeching guidance and help. He managed to complete his project right on time, i.e. prior to his thirteenth birthday when he achieved fusion. He dispatched his outcomes on the forum for substantiation.
Richard Hull, who is an admin for the forum Fusor.net and also a retired engineer of electronics, celebrated Jackson Oswalt as the youngest individual ever to attain nuclear fusion, quite possibly on the entire planet.
Jackson claims his achievement is the means to achieving greater things and in spite of attaining fusion is early 2018, Jackson only newly began publicizing his achievement.
Jackson plans to pioneer making a fusion reactor that is efficient and hence, has opted to pursue a career in nuclear physics. He intends to build another reactor employing the spherical tokamak procedure that captures energy in a different way than the fusion reactor which he has already constructed.
Jackson is also keen on establishing an organization which will assist young individuals like him to fund projects just like this one. All the very best to all individuals who aspire to challenge the world!
IMAGE CREDIT: Chris Oswalt