Professor Lei Zuo via Stony Brook University
Energy Harvesting Shock Absorbers were just a matter of time. Professor Lei Zuo of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook has designed, patented, and made a license available on that very concept, and won the prestigious R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine in 2011 (Best Technology Development of Energy Harvesting). Countless other engineers and people kicking themselves for not being faster.
Both the Linear and Motion Magnification Mechanism Shock styles via Professor Lei Zuo
Professor Zuo, along with graduate students, Xiudong Tang and Zachary Brindak designed one of their two shock absorbers very much like a Faraday Flashlight, with a little twist. An array of magnets sit inside this linear harvester design use both linear and rotational magnets to collect all energy from the road and vibration. (Vibration is collected by the rotary magnets.)
The second shock absorber harvester uses a pinion and rock system to turn a set of gears linked to a generator. Their compact motion magnification mechanism amplifies the road movements to spin the conventional generator.
In studies, both systems produced similar power outputs. An estimated 100W, 400W, and 1600W are produced on Class B (Good), C (Average), and D (Poor) roads respectively. The team said that trucks, rail cars, and off-road vehicles could produce power in the range of 1-10kW. Applying the shock absorber harvester technology to existing cars would improve the gas mileage by 1-4% due to the ruduction of strain on the alternator. The shocks would return 8% mileage increase on hybrid and electric vehicles where a battery in employed for the drive-train.
As stated, the technology is up for licensing. No word on the price of the shocks as of yet. As always, the return may not outstrip initial costs for some time.
Now, if this technology could only be included with the Electromagnetic Suspension system from Eindhoven University of Technology.