Monday 24 June 2019

Irish student (14) building a nuclear fusion reactor in his back garden

Tom McCarthy told RTE star Ryan Tubridy of his plans for the summer

Tom McCarthy
Tom McCarthy
Ryan Tubridy was at the RTE 2fm summer schedule launch
Rte 2fm presenter Ryan Tubridy pictured at the Rte 2fm Summer launch at Rte Studios in Donnybrook, Dublin. Pictures : Brian McEvoy

The school holidays have begun and most students are looking forward to a break away from the books.

Not so Tom McCarthy (14), a student in St Gerald’s College in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

Speaking to 2FM’s Ryan Tubridy earlier today, Tom described his plans to construct a nuclear fusion reactor in his back garden.

Tom, who has a passion for physics as well as basketball and GAA, hopes to have the reactor finished before September.

It will be placed inside his family's garden shed, he told Tubridy.

The young student explained how he came across an online video last year illustrating the concept of the reactor and “I just fell in love with it”.

“You could build a fusion reactor in the shed you know so I immediately started researching it, what you need, how you do it you know

“And since then a number of people have come on board including my uncle, Professor Tommy McCarthy from University College Cork.

“There’s a doctor of plasma physics from University College Cork, Dr Patrick McCarthy, although he’s not related and there’s a couple of other people who have come on board as well,” Tom added.

When asked by Tubridy why he wanted to build a nuclear fusion reactor in his family’s back garden, he said it was for “power generation” and part of a five-year plan to expand into energy generation.

Boldly, he says that such a project has never been constructed before – and he wants to see if he can make it a reality.

“There’s a type of generator that’s never been built before. It’s been theorised. I think I can do it and I hope I can anyways as it would be really great.”

Tom said his parents took some time to get used to the idea.

“It took them a while to get used to it at first. They thought I was a bit crazy and I got a few funny looks but they’re quite okay with it now and we’re well on our way.”

And as for his neighbours – well a lot of them aren’t aware of the project.

Tom is now in the process of collecting a varied array of materials.


“It’s basically composed of five sub-systems. There’s vacuum parts so there’s pumps which suck the air out of the vacuum chamber

“And then you have electronics. I need a high voltage transformer. Nearly 30 kilo volts – I know it sounds a bit scary.”

When Tubridy asked if the project could be “dangerous”, Tom assured him it wasn’t.

 “Well this is fusion.... it’s not Chernobyl. It’s not Fukushima. So there’s not near so much radioactivity.

“When it’s running, if you stand back one metre, you’re sorted. And if you put a lead shield in, you’re sorted again.

“But obviously with the equipment, you have to treat it with caution and respect.”

The ambitious student – who will be sitting his Junior Cert next year – is currently raising funds for the project.

“I’m trying to raise €10,000 for it. I’m on a crowdfunding site on Gogo and I have a website To date, I’ve raised nearly €5,000 so I’m halfway there.

“The barristers and lawyers of the Western Circuit, I got a cheque of €2,000 from them last night.”

And he hopes that Castlebar will benefit from his love of science.

“Enda Kenny put Castlebar on the map for politics – I think I could do the same for science, technology and innovation.

“I’ve put work into it already and they [donors] can see that so I think they are happy to invest in me.”

He hopes to have his nuclear fusion reactor in place before the start of the next school year in September.

“See I have half of what I need now so I’m going to start ordering parts at the end of this week hopefully.

“When they start coming in, I can start assembling parts.

“There will be a bit of innovation necessary, building bits and bobs but hopefully I will get it done before the start of the school year.”

Irish Independent

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