Conrad Farnsworth of Newcastle, Wyom. wasn't even old enough to vote when he built a successful nuclear fusion reactor.
Now 18, Farnsworth told the Casper Star-Tribune last month that while the reactor he built in the garage is too inefficient to be used for energy production, it could potentially be used to produce cancer-fighting isotopes.
The teen, who shares his last name with the fusor's original designer, Philo T. Farnsworth, and self-proclaimed mad scientist Hubert J. Farnsworth, began work on the project at age 16. He started by contacting members of the international amateur fusion community for guidance.
The resulting reactor is a maze of wires, buttons and doo-dads, sitting right next to his father's 1972 Chevy in the shed. The plasma at the heart of his reactor reaches a temperature of 600 million degrees Fahrenheit.
Nuclear fusion is not to be confused with nuclear fission. Nuclear fission is the process of splitting an atom's nucleus, which produces a huge energy release. Most nuclear power plants generate energy via fission.
Fusion, on the other hand, involves multiple atoms joining together to form a heavier nucleus, which may either release or absorb energy, depending on that nucleus' mass. The sun generates energy via fusion.
Unlike fission reactors, fusion reactors do not produce radioactive waste, and they are legal to make at home. Scientists are currently researching means to successfully harness nuclear fusion as a means of producing sustainable energy.
On Dec. 1, 2011, Farnsworth captured the moment he achieved nuclear fusion on film. The next day, he uploaded the video to YouTube, and several days later, he entered his creation in a regional science fair, winning first place there and then again at the state level. He then attended the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Maryland and San Diego.
According to the Star-Tribune, only about 60 people worldwide have ever built a successful fusion reactor. Now, Farnsworth told the paper, he's working on making his more efficient.
In addition his nuclear accomplishments, Farnsworth also finds time for a wide range of other projects and interests, scientific and otherwise. His YouTube channel serves as evidence that Farnsworth doesn't just build reactors, he also swims, skydives, sings, and blows up snowmen.
The channel also includes a video titled "Edward Cullen's Death." Set against a background of dramatic music, Farnsworth ceremonially destroys an action figure of the Twilight character.
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