YouTuber Converts A Knock-Off Game Boy To Run On Nuclear Power


When you think about nuclear energy, those big hourglass-shaped steam towers probably come to mind. But one creative YouTuber has managed to pull off a much smaller-scale, but nonetheless impressive, use of nuclear power: running a knock-off Game Boy for an hour to play Tetris.

Ian Charnas, a YouTuber who focuses on DIY creations like syncing wiper blades to music, decided to try and harness the power of nuclear decay to play a video game. You can and should watch his whole video, which is embedded below, but in short he captures the light energy thrown off by the natural decay of tritium (an isotope of hydrogen) using mini solar panels, and then stores that energy in specialized batteries. From there, the batteries are built into a custom board and hooked up to a low-energy handheld game system to play Tetris.


Large-scale reactors use controlled chain reactions of uranium fission to generate heat and turn a turbine to create electricity. This is, more or less, the same phenomenon that powers nuclear weapons and is highly regulated by international atomic energy agencies. However, many other elements also undergo nuclear decay at much smaller (and safer) levels, including tritium, and all nuclear processes release energy as both light and heat. While big reactors capture the heat, Charnas captures the light using photovoltaic cells. This is basically the same idea to running a game system of solar power–the sun, too, releases energy via nuclear fission and decay.

While Charnas’s creation is completely impractical from any sort of business standpoint–it’s expensive, unwieldy, and barely holds any charge–it’s still an extremely impressive implementation of nuclear power at the smallest of scales. Charnas is also raffling off the nuclear-powered handheld, with all proceeds going to benefit a charity helping support children living near the affected zone of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster.


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