Transportation consumes 70 percent of U.S. oil, but less than 20 percent of fuel energy is used to drive cars. Lei Zuo, a professor from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the principal investigator of a new invention, the electricity-generating shock absorber, which continuously harvests vehicle vibration energy due to road irregularities, in contrast to traditional shock absorbers that dissipate the vibration energy into waste heat. Several prototypes of electromagnetic shock absorbers have been developed at Stony Brook.
“One stone kills two birds” said Zuo. “On one side, we can mitigate the vibration of vehicles; on the other, we are able to harvest energy out of the shock absorber and power car electronics, thus increasing fuel efficiency. Moreover, we can also use the harvested energy for semi-active or active suspensions to achieve better ride comfort and road handling.”
The project is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). It received much attention and positive feedback after the first prototype was demonstrated and published in 2009.
“The potential of this project is inevitable”, said Pei Sheng Zhang, student leader of this project, “So far, our latest prototype is able to generate more than 70 watts of energy at 0.25 m/s suspension velocity. And there have been significant improvements since the first prototype was made.”
The electromechanical design is being further optimized, and the power electronics is under development. Road tests with retrofitted prototypes on real vehicles are planned for spring 2011.