Schoolboy, 13, Becomes Youngest In World To Create Nuclear Fusion

14/08/2014 16:59 | Updated 20 May 2015

Schoolboy, 13, youngest in world to build a fusion reactor

While most kids are dropping mints into Coke bottles to making a fizzing volcano during science lessons, Jamie Edwards is a bit more ambitious. Just a bit!

For the 13-year-old built a nuclear reactor in his classroom – and has become the youngest person in the world to achieve nuclear fusion from scratch.

Supported by his head teacher, the brainy teen defied the health and safety culture to create enough energy to smash two hydrogen atoms together to make helium.

He told his local paper: "It is quite an achievement. It's magnificent really. I can't quite believe it – even though all my friends think I am mad."

Jamie, who attends Penwortham Priory Academy near Preston, has been fascinated with radiation for years.

His fusion ambition was sparked by reading about a 14-year-old US schoolboy, Taylor Wilson, who had become the youngest to produce a small fusion reactor in Nevada in 2008.

Jamie's first step was to enlist help from nuclear laboratories and university departments, but 'they didn't seem to take me seriously'.

So that left the laboratories at his school, and the task of convincing headmaster Jim Hourigan. Fortunately the head agreed and came up with the necessary £3,000 funding.

Mr Hourigan admitted: "I was a bit stunned and I have to say a little nervous when Jamie suggested this but he reassured me he wouldn't blow the school up."

After months of work, the reactor was finally completed just ahead of his 14th birthday this weekend.

And this week, in a 'radiation controlled area' in a classroom, before an audience of experts, Jamie flicked a switch and stared intently at his Geiger counter until it registered that fusion had indeed taken place – or created 'a star in a jar', as Jamie refers to it.

Nuclear fusion, the reaction that powers the sun, is very different from nuclear fission, or the splitting of the atom, that occurs in nuclear power stations and is the stuff of atom bombs. However, both release vast amounts of energy.

Scientists around the world are replicating Jamie's experiment, but on a much bigger scale, in the hope of using it on a large scale to fuel cheap, environmentally-friendly power stations.

The experiment was assisted by electronics experts who tested the apparatus for safety, while Jamie, his friend George Barker and the teachers involved had all attended a risk assessment course at a nuclear fuel company.

For his next project, Jamie – who wants to be a nuclear engineer or work in theoretical physics – has his sights set on building a miniature hadron collider.


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