Taylor Wilson

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Taylor Wilson
Taylor Wilson Halifax 2016 cropped.jpg
Wilson in 2016
Born (1994-05-07) May 7, 1994 (age 27)
Texarkana, Arkansas, United States[1]
OccupationNuclear science
AwardsThiel Fellowship

Taylor Ramon Wilson (born May 7, 1994) is an American nuclear physics enthusiast and science advocate. In 2008, at the age of 14, he produced nuclear fusion using a fusor, making him the youngest person ever to do so.[2][3]

Personal life and education[edit]

Taylor Wilson was born in 1994 in Texarkana, Arkansas to Kenneth and Tiffany Wilson. His father is the owner of a Coca-Cola bottling plant, and his mother was a Yoga instructor.[4] Wilson was initially interested in rocketry and space science, before entering the field of nuclear science at age 10.[1] He had a lot of support from his parents.[5] During high school Wilson attended both the Davidson Academy of Nevada and the University of Nevada, Reno where he was given a laboratory to conduct his fusion research.[citation needed] He resides in Reno, Nevada.[6]

In June 2012, Wilson was awarded a Thiel Fellowship.[7][8] The two-year $100,000 fellowship requires recipients to forgo college for the duration of the fellowship. In 2017, Wilson was named a member of the Helena Group, an "elite and edgy" think tank of global leaders focused on executing projects that improve the world.[9][10]

Scientific projects[edit]

Taylor Wilson presenting nuclear security work to Barack Obama, February 7, 2012[11]

Fusion reactor[edit]

In 2008, Wilson achieved nuclear fusion using an inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) device, which was a variation of the fusor, invented by Philo T. Farnsworth in 1964.[1] He used the flux of neutrons from a deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction to conduct nuclear experiments, and studied novel fusion fuels inside the IEC device. In March 2012, Wilson spoke at a TED conference regarding the building of his fusion reactor.[12] Along with the IEC reactors, Wilson has conducted fusion research using dense plasma focus devices. He also constructed and developed nuclear diagnostics for basic fusion research.[13]

Nuclear detection[edit]

In May 2010, Wilson entered the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, California, and won several awards for his project titled "Fission Vision: The Detection of Prompt and Delayed Induced Fission Gamma Radiation, and the Application to the Detection of Proliferated Nuclear Materials."[14]

In May 2011, Wilson entered his radiation detector in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles, California, against a field of 1,500 competitors and won a US$50,000 award.[3][15] The project, “Countering Nuclear Terrorism: Novel Active and Passive Techniques for Detecting Nuclear Threats”, won the First Place Award in the Physics and Astronomy Category, Best of Category Award, and the Intel Young Scientist Award. Wilson stated he hopes to test and rapidly field the devices to US ports for counterterrorism purposes.[3]

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Energy offered federal funding to Wilson concerning research Wilson has conducted in building inexpensive Cherenkov radiation detectors.[3]

Fission reactor[edit]

On February 27, 2013 at TED 2013, Wilson presented his ideas on the benefits of building small underground nuclear fission reactors that are self-contained and use down-blended uranium and plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons as fuel.[16][17][18] He temporarily left his research on the fusion reactor[citation needed] and designed a variation of a compact molten salt reactor that he says would supply about 50 MW and would need refueling only once every 30 years. According to Wilson, because much of the reactor would be buried and its uranium would not be weapons-grade, it is less vulnerable either to terrorist attack or misuse.[19]

In an article in Power Engineering, Wilson states:

At its heart, the technology is the molten salt reactor invented at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s. The reactor designs I have developed are inspired by this original concept to provide some of the necessary features just touched on. Additionally providing passive emergency cooling, an extremely compact core and reactor subsystems, few moving parts, minimal online processing, and the latest materials and fabrication techniques, and you can have an idea of the design I am working to move to market. With a sealed module design life of 30 years, even with the harsh fluoride salt environment, there are no exceedingly difficult materials problems. Designs range in size from 2 to 100 MWe, the range in which the core technology excels. 50 MWe, however, is the standard design for utility customers needing town-sized distributed power generation.

— Taylor Wilson, August 15, 2013[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Boy Who Played With Fusion". Popular Science. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  2. ^ "Taylor Wilson". TED.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Dutton, Judy. "Teen Nuclear Scientist Fights Terror", CNN.com, September 1, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  4. ^ "Rock Center: 19-year-old hopes to revolutionize nuclear power". NBC. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  5. ^ Boy who played with Fusion, Tom Clynes no ISBN given, 2015
  6. ^ "About Me". Taylor Wilson. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  7. ^ "Peter Thiel Announces 2012 Class of 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows". Thiel Fellowship website. June 13, 2012. Archived from the original on November 13, 2012.
  8. ^ Cutler, Kim-Mai (June 14, 2012). "Nuclear Fusion, 3D Printing, Biomedical Imaging: What Thiel's New 20 Under 20 Fellows Are Attacking". TechCrunch.
  9. ^ "Helena Group Members". Helena Group Foundation. 2017.
  10. ^ "The boy genius tackling energy's toughest problem". USA Today. 2017.
  11. ^ "President Obama Hosts the White House Science Fair". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved October 18, 2013 – via National Archives.
  12. ^ "Taylor Wilson: Yup, I built a nuclear fusion reactor". TED.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  13. ^ "Taylor's Nuke Site". Sciradioactive.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  14. ^ Intel SEF database. societyforscience.org
  15. ^ Teen Builds Nuke Detecting Device, Gizmodo.com. Retrieved September 3, 2011
  16. ^ TED2013. "Taylor Wilson: My radical plan for small nuclear fission reactors (at 3:26)". TED.com. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  17. ^ "Good energy comes in small packages: Taylor Wilson at TED2013". TED.com. February 27, 2012.
  18. ^ "The Wunderkinder of TED". Time. March 1, 2012.
  19. ^ "TED Day 3: Fixing the Planet". Discover. February 28, 2012.
  20. ^ "Redeeming the Atom". Power Engineering. Retrieved October 18, 2013.

External links[edit]