Technology Whizzkid Story: Tom McCarthy and the Fusor

We love this technology whizzkid story. The inspiring 14 year old, Tom McCarthy, from Mayo, tells us about himself and why he wants to build a Fusor.

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m 14 years old and a 2nd year student in St. Gerald’s College, Castlebar. I play both gaelic and basketball. When I’m not working on the Fusor, I like to read, play guitar or listen to music – Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton are my two favourite musicians.

What first got you interested in building a Fusor?

Fusor_TomI’ve always had an interest in science, especially the field of physics. When I came across a video on the internet last year about Taylor Wilson, an American who had built his own Fusor, I was instantly taken in by the idea of being able to study nuclear physics at a very advanced level without needing to wait until University, or even later than that.

I immediately started researching how a Fusor works, the equipment required to build one and how I could go about building a Fusor. That was in May 2013 and now, after a year of research I’m finally ready to begin construction of the Fusor.

However, while investigating Fusors, I discovered that I would need quite a bit of money to buy the required equipment. I am trying to raise this money through crowdfunding.

What is a Fusor?

Basically, a fusor creates a very strong electric field and uses this to fuse deuterium atoms together. A fusor is composed of five main sub-systems:

1. The vacuum system; this is composed of two vacuum pumps, which simply pump as much air as possible out of the vacuum chamber.

2. The high voltage system, this is mainly a high voltage transformer, which creates the aforementioned electric field and allows fusion to occur.

3. The deuterium system. This admits deuterium, which is essentially the “fuel” of the Fusor into the vacuum chamber.

4. The instrumentation and metering. Various meters and detectors such as vacuum meters and neutron detection equipment are required to allow whoever is operating the Fusor to control and monitor it.

5. The vacuum chamber. This is the core of the Fusor. It’s a reinforced steel chamber and in reality, it’s where the magic happens.

What have you done so far?


Tom & Prof. Patrick McCarthy at UCC

Up to now, I’ve spent a huge amount of time studying Fusors and all that they entail. I’ve also enlisted the help of some people, who I am very grateful to. My uncle, Prof. Tommie McCarthy of University College Cork has helped me a great deal in organizing proposal documents and proof reading them for me. Another person who is helping is Dr. Patrick McCarthy (no relative), a physicist, also of University College Cork. I have visited his lab in UCC and discussed the project with him there.

To date, I’ve raised almost €2,000 out of the €11,000 that I will need to build the Fusor, all of the money raised is being supervised by my parents, Mairead and Cathal. I have also set up a website where I keep all visitors updated on my progress.

What do you plan to do with the Fusor?

Once I’ve built the Fusor, the first thing I plan to do is optimize and make it as efficient as possible. I would then hope to perform some research – one topic that interests me is that of Bremsstrahlung radiation. I hope that this research would enable me to enter the BT Young Scientist competition and from there, qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which is quite a prestigious competition.

As a long term goal, I would really like to look into nuclear power generation with the Fusor, especially sub-critical reactors as I think these are the safest, cleanest and most sustainable option for nuclear power generation for the future.


Crowdfunding campaign

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Jennifer, our Editor, has 1 son and admits to munching a Cadbury’s Turkish Delight now and again.