We might have a new contender for the youngest person to ever achieve nuclear fusion.
Tennessee teenager Jackson Oswalt is not your average 14-year-old. While other kids are playing video games or watching TV, he’s been busy putting together a nuclear laboratory in an old playroom in his house.
The budding nuclear engineer has been working on this project since he was 12, and on 19 January 2018, just hours before his 13th birthday, he reportedly achieved his mission.
Using 50,000 volts of electricity, Oswalt was reportedly able to combine two atoms of deuterium gas, successfully fusing the nuclei in his reactor’s plasma core.
After conducting some further tests over the following months, Oswalt became more convinced than ever that he had achieved fusion.
“For those that haven’t seen my recent posts, it will come as a major surprise that I would even consider believing I had achieved fusion,” he wrote on the Fusor.net forum recently.
“However, over the past month I have made an enormous amount of progress resulting from fixing major leaks in my system. I now have results that I believe to be worthy.”
To be clear, these claims have not been peer reviewed as yet – until they’re replicated and the results are published in a peer-review journal, we need to take all of this with a very, very big grain of salt.
But Oswalt is not the only one who thinks he’s been successful.
The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium has also verified Oswalt’s results. According to Jason Hull, an administrator on the website, Oswalt has now been added to the hobbyist group’s list of successful fusioneers.
“Good work. Nice system. You have put some money into this,” Hull wrote, applauding Oswalt’s work.
He’s not wrong. While Oswalt’s nuclear reactor is considered a “tiny volume fusor”, setting it up in an old playroom in his parents’ house cost something like $10,000 (£7,700).
What’s even crazier is that Oswalt isn’t the only young teen working on ambitious projects like this.
If Oswalt’s results are peer-reviewed or verified by a scientific organisation, he will have officially ousted the former record holder, a 14-year-old named Taylor Wilson, as the youngest person to ever achieve nuclear fusion.