Teen builds working nuclear fusion reactor in Memphis home

connectVideoMemphis teen builds working nuclear fusion reactor in our own laboratory

To find out: Tennessee teen successfully builds homemade nuclear fusion reactor on its own.

MEMPHIS, Tenn.- Some children spend their time on social media, the other children spend their time playing video games. When it comes to the 14-year-old Jackson Oswalt, his time is spent in a laboratory working on a nuclear fusion reactor.

The Memphis teenager ready reactor and achieved fusion at the age of 13. He is seen by experts as the youngest America – perhaps even in the world to accomplish. Jackson built a steel machine made of vacuum cleaners, pumps, and air that is capable of smashing atoms together by force in a smoking hot plasma center brings a burst of fusion energy. If you’ve ever wondered how the sun and other stars are powered, the process within the Jackson fusion reactor is similar.

He began work on the fusion reactor in 12 years, after concluding that he does not want to spend his free time only to the playing of games such as Fortnite. He began scouring the Internet for nuclear-related things, because that is what he says held his interest. Yes, 12 years old.

Jackson Oswalt,14, shows off the sign on the door of his home laboratory warning of X-ray radiation.
(Charles Watson/Fox News)

During his research, Jackson came Taylor Wilson, who in 2008 at 14 years garnered international recognition as the youngest person to merge with the building of a nuclear fusion reactor in his parents ‘ garage in Texarkana, Arkansas.

Jackson, as a 12-year-old would, he thought he could at least try to beat the record set by Wilson. From there, he got to work.

“The start of the process was still learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors,” explained the mild-mannered teenager. “After that, I compiled a list of parts that I needed. [I] got the parts off eBay primary, and then often are the parts that I’ve managed to scrounge off of eBay, not exactly what I needed. So, I would have to modify them to be able to do what I had to do for my project.”


The building of the fusion reactor was not a game for Jackson. He converted an old games room in his home in Memphis a functioning lab. With the financial support of his parents – he spent between $8,000 and $10,000 in the course of a year collecting the parts he needed to build his fusion reactor – that was apparently the easy part.

The plasma in the core of Jackson Oswalt is a nuclear fusion reactor purple glow as 50,000 volts of electricity to heat.
(Charles Watson/Fox News)

The put of the fusion reactor together, and test it to see if it worked, was the real challenge. Because there is not really a guide on how to build something like that, he depends on trial and error and the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, an online forum for amateur physicists, to ensure that he is taking the right steps in the direction of successfully build a fusion reactor and, hopefully, achieve fusion.

“After a while, it became quite easy to realize how it all worked together, but at the start it was definitely figuring out one aspect of it, remembering what that actually meant, and then moving on to a different aspect of it,” Jackson said. “Eventually all the pieces of the puzzle came together to make a good project.”


Jackson’s father, Chris Oswalt, had no understanding of what his son was doing. To make sure Jackson was safe, he had experts speak with him about the dangers of working on a potentially deadly fusion reactor, if it is exposed to high levels of radiation or being electrocuted by 50,000 volts of electricity that he used to warm up the fusion reactor, the plasma in the core.

Beyond his safety concerns, Chris Oswalt was astonished at what his son is trying to do.

“As a parent of someone who is as passionate as he was for 12 months, it was really impressive to see. I mean the daily grind; each day learning something else; the daily fail and watching him work through all those things,” he said.

Jackson Oswalt explains how his fusion reactor fuses atoms and detects neutrons in order to prove that the commencement of the thaw. (Charles Watson/Fox News)

In the whole process, Jackson posted his results on the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium up to the point where he was able to fusion on Jan. 19, 2018 — hours before his 13th birthday. In Jackson’s case, this meant that the combining of two atoms of deuterium gas in the fusion reactor, the plasma in the core, which is ejected a neutron in a device that slowed it down, and detected in nuclear fusion.

“You have to jump through the right hoops, and we believe in you and see what you’ve done,” said Richard Hull, 72, a verifier with the research consortium and an administrator for the website

Hull, a retired electronics engineer from Richmond, Va., checked both Jackson and Wilson’s results. He now regards Jackson as the youngest America – possibly the world – to come to fusion.


On a larger scale, scientists have yet to figure out how to produce a nuclear fusion reactor that, like the sun, is capable of providing more energy than is needed to power things such as houses and buildings.

“We are still far away from making a working nuclear fusion reactor to produce electricity, so you can think about how hard it is to be a fusion reactor,” said Dr. Jingbiao Cui, professor and chairman of the department of Physics at the University of Memphis.

With a young spirit, if Jackson is interested in becoming a “nuclear engineer to work on more projects like this,” scientists were able to the kinks of fusion reactors sooner rather than later.

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