At the average science fair you probably would expect experiments about plant growth under different circumstances, egg drops, or batteries made from food. A nuclear fusion reactor that creates helium from hydrogen would probably be quite unexpected, but that’s exactly what 13-year-old Jamie Edwards from Lancashire did.
After receiving a £2000 ($3,350) grant from his school last November, Edwards, a self-described “amateur nuclear scientist,” set to work building his reactor, often staying late after school. He used a blog to chronicle his battles with parts that were damaged during shipping, shaping brittle tungsten for the inner grid, and patching leaks in the reaction chamber. After his reactor was completed, he had to be trained through a radiation safety course before he was allowed to switch it on.
When the time finally came to test and Edwards’ reactor worked, The BBC was there to document the historical moment. He had become the youngest scientist to achieve nuclear fusion, dethroning Taylor Wilson from Nevada, who first fused atoms together at the age of 14.
Where does one learn how to build a nuclear fusion reactor? The internet, of course! Though it probably goes without saying, you probably shouldn’t do this one in your garage. Deuterium, the isotope of hydrogen used to form helium, is highly combustible. The reactor will generate lethal voltage levels and lead shielding is required to protect against the x-ray radiation. If this is a project you’d like to try, it’s best to contact your local university and see if there is a space with the proper safety equipment available and in cooperation with a trained individual.*
*IFLScience is not responsible for any damages or injury. Please don't blow yourselves up.