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US teen fires up fusion reactor

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A 17-year-old US student has, after two years' work and 1,000 hours of research, managed to achieve nuclear fusion in the basement of his parents' Oakland Township home, The Detroit Free Press reports.

Thiago Olson's Fusor was knocked together with bits and pieces bought on the internet and blagged from manufacturers at a discount. It includes "a piece of equipment taken from an old mammogram machine", which provides the 40,000 volt charge necessary to provoke fusion in deuterium gas injected into a steel vacuum chamber.

Nuclear fusion wasn't Olsen's orginal aim, however. His mum Natalice admitted: "Originally, he wanted to build a hyperbaric chamber," adding that she firmly vetoed the plan. Of his fusion success, she enthused: "I think it was pretty brave that he could think that he was capable to do something so amazing."

Olsen was a semifinalist this year in the Siemens Foundation's National Research Competition and plans to enter the Science and Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit next year, and thereafter qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. His long-term aim is to work for the federal government, The Detroit Free Press notes. ®

Bootnote

According to www.fusor.net, Olsen is the eighteenth amateur to achieve nuclear fusion. The site has more background to the "Inertial Electrostatic Confinement" approach to fusion as developed by Philo T Farnsworth back in the 1960s, which forms the basis of the young man's machine.

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