MIT Students Invent Energy-Harvesting Shock Absorber, Plan to Take Over the World

MIT shock absorber prototype photo

Zack Anderson , senior in elecrical engineering and computer sciences, holds a GenShock prototype up to a Humvee coil spring where it is installed. Photo via MIT, credit Donna Coveney

For once we just might be excited about going on a bumpy ride.

A group of MIT undergrads have created a shock absorber that harvests energy from a vehicle's movement and can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 10%. The students rented several different cars and fitted them with monitors to see how much energy potential was held in the suspensions.

The regenerative shock absorbers are able to offer up to a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency than standard shock absorbers used in most cars today. The new shocks have a tiny turbine powered by a generator, so each time a shock is compressed or extended, hydraulic fluid must pass by the turbine. An active electronic system controls the hydraulics and the car has a smoother ride while also generating electricity.

During testing of a 6-shock truck, they found each shock absorber is able to generate up to an average of 1 kW on a road, which is "enough power to completely displace the large alternator load in heavy trucks and military vehicles."

The students are definitely aware of how lucrative this invention can be. They've formed a company - Levant Power Corp - and are working on getting patents and perfecting the technology. By this summer, they hope to start getting companies on board for converting the suspensions of their fleets, and maybe even winning a government contract or two. They already have gotten a loan from the company that makes humvees for the military, and have snagged a loaner humvee from them for testing.

They hope their technology will help give an edge to the military vehicle company in securing the expected $40 billion contract for the new army vehicle called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV.

"They see it as something that's going to be a differentiator" in the quest for that lucrative contract, says [Senior Shakeel] Avadhany. He adds, "it is a completely new paradigm of damping."

"Simply put -- we want this technology on every heavy-truck, military vehicle and consumer hybrid on the road," Avadhany says.

Via MIT via Daily Tech
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