17-year old Thiago Olson does what very geekish kid wishes they could do with their science lab: build a fusion reactor:
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.
This year, Thiago was a semifinalist for the Siemens Foundation’s National Research Competition. He plans to enter the Science and Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit, which is in March, in hopes of qualifying to be in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in New Mexico in May.
What’s cooler about this is that he is officially the 18th person in the world to have replicated nuclear fusion.