I started my Tuesday morning like any other morning. Walk to work, punch in, and I am greeted by our stock of colourful bike trailers waiting for me just inside the parking lot door. The whirring of the machinery in the shop tells me that the technicians have started another production run of our Suspension Bike Trailers. Heading over to my office, I hang my jacket up, and sit down at my desk. Another average morning at the bike trailer factory. This morning however, the owner of WIKE Bike Trailers, Bob, had some big news for us. He was excited enough to go around the office and shop and personally tell every single one of our employees the big news. He told us that there has been a breakthrough in nuclear fusion. None of our employees knew exactly what he was talking about, but they were happy to smile and nod and share in Bob’s excitement. I, on the other hand, understood entirely, thanks to having a natural affinity and interest in STEM subjects, plus a bit of post secondary education to top it off. Even if you’re not an ex-nuclear engineer like Bob, or a marketing manager with a head for science and tech, you’re probably wondering why we’re so excited, and I am so happy to tell you!
Just a few hours ago, the US Department of Energy announced that the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California achieved something that humans have been trying to achieve since the industrial revolution – hydrogen fusion. Until now, it’s been a theoretical probability with no real means of testing or execution. This energy is produced by nuclear fusion, a process in which two Hydrogen atoms are forced together, and when they meet, energy is released. Like… a LOT of energy. So much energy, that it can power anything and everything that requires electricity and oil. This nuclear fusion could very well be the big replacement for fossil fuels. It sounds a bit unbelievable, given our world’s reliance on fossil fuels, but it’s absolutely true. You may have heard of the term “nuclear fission” being thrown around (usually in terms of bombs and warfare) where isotopes of uranium atoms are split to release their stored energy, which causes an explosion, and well… you know the rest. Nuclear fusion is a little different than nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is the same chemical reaction that causes our Sun and stars to be bright, hot, fire balls in the sky. Now there’s a ton of energy, right? As you can probably surmise, this a revolution in clean energy, as the reaction does not create carbon, and releases a great deal of energy and heat (just like the stars). In fact, this process creates the element helium as a by-product, which is usually mined at the same time as natural gas, but in lower quantities. If you’re interested to know more about how nuclear fusion works, check out this Encyclopedia Britannica page (that also helped me refresh my high-school chemistry knowledge): https://www.britannica.com/science/nuclear-fusion.
When Bob first told me, it was easy to say, “that’s great news!” and then try to move on to do the work he hired me to do. But the more time I spent writing this article… the more this news is sinking in. The more it sinks in, I’m realizing just how monumental it is. Subsequently, I have so many questions! What are the implications for the big oil companies? Is this procession a big enough innovation to cut out oil entirely? What does the future look like for other types of clean energy? Is this the end of our fossil-fuels era? How long until we can use this technology wide-spread? As unclear and scary as some of these questions may sound, I think it’s super exciting. As a company whose values are strongly rooted in carbon-neutral, eco-friendly methods of transportation, you can probably imagine how quickly this news got our wheels turning today!
It's a pretty neat concept to think about - smashing two things together, to create something different that benefits humanity. If anything, humans might be the masters of transformation. When you take into consideration the other inventions that humanity has smashed together, we’re certainly on the right path. Take cell phones for example. Cell phones are a telephone, a calculator, a camera, a music player, and other devices, all packaged up into a handheld super-computer. Consider that the telephone was an invention to mix the radio with the telegraph! While there is a lot to be said about the impact of technology on our overall global footprint, like carbon emissions, pollution, heavy metals, mining etc., it seems that perhaps that humans might just be coming around to the fact that we need to make some big changes, and this is a mind-blowing start. Who knew it would be by smashing two things into each other until they become one?
If you don’t know much about WIKE, Bob began his career as a young engineer working in the oil sector in South America. He has seen first-hand the destruction and pollution that this type of energy production creates and was determined to find a solution. He started WIKE originally with the idea of creating an electric car, that was around 100lbs and could be ridden in the same places you can ride a bike. When this didn’t pan out, he switched to bike trailers. Coming full circle, Bob combined the bike trailer, a stroller, and a jogging stroller into what you know as our multi-patented WIKE lineup of bicycle trailers and strollers. It’s the perfect example of a multi-use product that still holds the same vision for eco-friendly, carbon-free, and people-powered transportation that Bob had almost 30 years ago.
Now over 25 years later, we are still here, thriving in the modern 2022 ecological landscape, and thrilled to be writing about nuclear fusion and the positive impact it will eventually have on our homes’ – the Earth’s – health and wellbeing. Just like the sun, Bob’s inventions and everyday efforts to create a greener world still shine bright to this day.
I suppose the main takeaway here is that by smashing a few different ideas and concepts together, even if it doesn’t work out the first time, you may just get a star that shines. And I don't think anybody needs to be an engineer to appreciate a star when they see one.