Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/03/06/blightys_teen_boffin_builds_nuclear_reactor_in_classroom/

Blighty teen boffin builds nuclear reactor INSIDE CLASSROOM

Headmaster: 'He reassured me he wouldn’t blow the school up'

By Jasper Hamill

Posted in Science, 6th March 2014 12:34 GMT

A British teenager has become the youngest person to build a nuclear fusion reactor.

Jamie Edwards, a 13-year-old from Preston, persuaded his headmaster to let him build the reactor in a classroom. He was so persuasive that the head of Penwortham Priory Academy even handed over £3,000 worth of funding after Jamie reassured him there was no chance of an explosion wiping out the school.

The young student has blogged about his bid to become the world's youngest "fusioneer", in which he discusses working late nights to produce a "star in a jar".

It must have been a lonely old science project because the only person who had commented on the blog this morning was Edwards. But this looks likely to change after he successfully achieved a nuclear fusion reaction and his story hit the national newspapers. At the time of publication, he had 20 well-wishers in the comments thread.

"It is quite an achievement. It’s magnificent really," young Edwards told reporters at local rag Lancashire Evening Post. "I can’t quite believe it – even though all my friends think I am mad."

The teen said he had been inspired by Taylor Wilson, who became the youngest fusioneer in 2008 when he built a small nuclear reactor in Nevada at the tender age of 14.

"I looked at it, thought 'That looks cool' and decided to have a go," Edwards continued.

Initially, schoolboy tried to persuade universities to help him achieve his nuclear dream.

After they refused to take him seriously, Jamie approached his headmaster, Jim Hourigan, who agreed to fund the project after the teen gave a presentation.

"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," the head recalled.

Hydrogen fusion involves inducing hydrogen nuclei to collide at high speed to produce helium.

The teenager used a technique that is at least 50 years old called Inertial Electrostatic Confinement. The method uses electric fields on the trapped gas in a vaccuum chamber. Charge accumulates on parts of the "jar" to create super-heated conditions, which in turn oscillates some of the charged ions at such a velocity that some of them merge to produce helium nuclei. The process also creates a small amount of radiation, and the teen's teachers had to attend a special training session.

NASA is investigating using the technique to make powerful spacecraft propulsion systems. ®