TECH

British 13-Year-Old Builds Fusion Reactor (AKA The 'Star In A Jar')

06/03/2014 09:02 GMT | Updated 06/03/2014 09:59 GMT

A 13-year-old boy has become the world's youngest person to build a fusion reactor.

Jamie Edwards, from Preston, was able to build a reactor which can smash together two hydrogen atoms to make an atom of helium.

And apparently, it was his idea.

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Jamie was inspired by American student Tyler Wilson, who built his own reactor in 2008 when he was just 14.

"I thought that’s cool and decided to have a go," he said. "Basically I made a star in a jar."

Jamie announced the idea in class - at which point his headmaster at Penwortham Priory Academy apparently asked the obvious question 'Will it blow the school up?'.

The answer, luckily, was no. The reactor doesn't use any nuclear material, and isn't dangerous - as long as it's done properly.

The experiment involves using electric fields to heat charged particles in a vacuum, to the point where they can smash into each other and fuse into helium.

A related - though vastly more difficult and powerful - concept is being developed in labs around the world as a possible future energy source. The benefits of this -- currently theoretical, if you don't count the Sun (which is also powered by fusion) -- power source is that the fuel is widely abundant, and there is little waste.

Jamie started his project in October, with the help of his teachers (and his school finding £3,000 in funding) and the specialist engineering company R&B Switchgear group.

He finally broke the record on 5 March, when his machine was confirmed to have fused two hydrogen atoms into an atom of helium.

Inspired by his success, R&B Switchgear have now launched a new scheme providing £10,000 to students who want to do their own special science experiments. The name? The Star Jar fund. Neat.