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November 21, 2006

Teen Builds Small Fusion Reactor In Parents' Garage

I'm not sure if this is verified. The article cites a website naming him as the eighteenth amateur to achieve nuclear fusion -- but, you know, websites aren't really the Gold Standard of verification.

Still, that number -- "the eigtheenth amateur" -- maybe indicates that doing this on a small scale isn't as impossible as I imagined.

Anyway, he is, at the very least, a driven and precocious tinkerer:

On the surface, Thiago Olson is like any typical teenager.

He's on the cross country and track teams at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills. He's a good-looking, clean-cut 17-year-old with a 3.75 grade point average, and he has his eyes fixed on the next big step: college.

But to his friends, Thiago is known as "the mad scientist."

In the basement of his parents' Oakland Township home, tucked away in an area most aren't privy to see, Thiago is exhausting his love of physics on a project that has taken him more than two years and 1,000 hours to research and build -- a large, intricate machine that , on a small scale, creates nuclear fusion.

Nuclear fusion -- when atoms are combined to create energy -- is "kind of like the holy grail of physics," he said.

In fact, on www.fusor.net, the Stoney Creek senior is ranked as the 18th amateur in the world to create nuclear fusion. So, how does he do it?

Pointing to the steel chamber where all the magic happens, Thiago said on Friday that this piece of the puzzle serves as a vacuum. The air is sucked out and into a filter.

Then, deuterium gas -- a form of hydrogen -- is injected into the vacuum. About 40,000 volts of electricity are charged into the chamber from a piece of equipment taken from an old mammogram machine. As the machine runs, the atoms in the chamber are attracted to the center and soon -- ta da -- nuclear fusion.

Thiago said when that happens, a small intense ball of energy forms.

He first achieved fusion in September and has been perfecting the machine he built in his parents' garage ever since.

Cute, but couldn't he be using his scientific know-how to do something important?

Like build a flyin' car?

Thanks to RobG.


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posted by Ace at 05:31 PM

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