Teenager Thiago Olsen posted this picture of his homemade fusion device on a blog page for other amatuer physicists to admire.
A high school senior has achieved nuclear fusion in his parents’ basement.

When he's not running track and cross country at Stoney Creek High School, 17-year-old Thiago Olsen can be found tinkering with items such as high-voltage X-ray transformers, diffusion pumps, and neutron bubble dosimeters. Most of the devices were scrounged from eBay or built from scraps and pieces picked up at the local hardware store.

This teen's dream of fusing two hydrogen atoms by crashing them together to form a single helium nucleus has finally paid off. The proof lies in the images he has published showing a classic "star in a jar" pattern, indicating the presence of neutron bubbles suspended in plasma, the traditional by-product of nuclear fusion.

It's “kind of like the holy grail of physics,” Olsen told reporters from the Detroit Free Press. His accomplishment was recorded by the Web site, where he has been officially declared the 18th member of the Neutron Club, an elite group of private individuals worldwide to have successfully "operated a neutron-producing fusor or fusion system" of their own manufacture.

Some parents might be nervous about the safety of a home-made device designed to create plasma at a temperature of around 200 million degrees -- several times hotter than the core of the sun. Earlier this month, Michigan Department of Health officials inspected the apparatus. "They were impressed, and it checked out," Olsen said.

The high school senior's goal of competing at the May 2007 International Science Fair in Albuquerque still has a flicker of a chance. Olsen was a finalist at the 50th Science & Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit last week, but his entry "Neutron Activation Using an Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion Reactor," will need to take top honors at the Michigan Science Fair in Flint on March 31 to keep his hopes alive.

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