Energy harvesting shock absorber with mechanical motion rectifier concept (via Lei Zuo)
Potholes and bumps in the road usually decrease the life of our vehicles shock absorbers over time, so we tend not to think of horrible road conditions as beneficial. Now we can.
A team of engineers from the State University of New York have designed a new type of shock absorber that actually harnesses the energy created by those rotten roads and turns it into electricity. The team, led by Professor Lei Zuo, recently designed the regenerative shock absorber (Mechanical Motion Rectifier) using a hydraulic system that turns a set of rotational gears through the cars vibration. The gears in-turn takes the irregular vibrational energy and transfers it to an electrical generator that converts it to electricity, which leads back to the vehicles alternator. The electricity is then used to recharge the vehicles battery as well as its electronics, which provides between 2 to 8 percent fuel efficiency over vehicles with standard shocks.
This translates into a fuel savings of 4% for vehicles that use an internal combustion engine and 8% in savings for hybrid vehicles. As an added benefit, the MMR shocks provide a smoother ride as they absorb more vibration over normal shocks. Professor Zuo says that the MMR’s could also be applied to train tracks which would power electrical devices such as lights and crossing gates as the trains vibrational energy is transferred. It stands to reason that only ‘good vibes’ can come from the MMR system being implemented into vehicles. Zuo states that if 5% of the 256,000,000 vehicles on the road today used the shocks we could reclaim more power than Niagara Falls produces per year. Every little bit adds up.
Professor Zuo's research was reported on back in July of 2010. In less than a year, Zuo and his team doubled the efficiencies from 1% to 8%. The boost was made by adoption a gear train generation over a
With the change, the shock absorber has an investor. The company Harvest Energy has licensed the tech. We may see the absorbers on buses and trucks in the near future. Progress is slow.