Thirteen-year old Jamie Edwards, surprised his school’s headmaster when he said he wanted to build a nuclear reactor in the school’s science lab. He promised that the experiment would be completely safe. In the end, the spirit of scientific curiosity won over health and safety concerns when young Jamie was given permission to go ahead with the project.
The success of the project made Jamie the youngest person in the world to achieve nuclear fusion from scratch. The demonstration took place at Jamie’s school, Penwortham Priory Academy, where he used high energy to smash two hydrogen atoms together and create helium.
Jamie has always had an interest in radiation and even bought a Geiger-counter with his Christmas money on one occasion. His desire to create a fusion reactor was sparked by reading about 14-year old Taylor Wilson, a school boy who became the youngest person to create a fusion reactor in his school in Nevada in 2008.
At first Jamie tried to enlist the help of universities and nuclear laboratories, but none of them took his idea seriously. After having no success with the universities and labs, Jamie turned towards his school’s headmaster, Jim Hourigan. Mr Hourigan agreed and came up with the funding of £3,000 which was needed for the project.
After months of hard work the reactor was completed just a few days before Jamie’s 14th birthday and the demonstration took place in a “radiation controlled area” of the classroom. Everyone waited earnestly until the Geiger counter went off and confirmed that a fusion reaction had occurred in the reactor.
Jamie’s reactor had completed a fusion reaction which is the same source of energy that powers the sun. Scientists today are working on ways to perform the experiment on a larger and more feasible scale to provide power for the masses. Currently, nuclear power plants use nuclear fission (which is the splitting of atoms) to provide heat and boil water into steam to run steam turbines. Nuclear fusion produces more energy than fission but is harder to achieve. With Jamie’s experiment working on such a small scale, it is possible to create a reactor that runs in a feasible manner on a much larger scale.
Jamie was assisted by electronics experts that made sure the apparatus was safe, along with his friend George Barker and teachers from his school. He plans to build a miniature hadron collider next. Way to go kid!