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Image of the MIT-created shock absorber  (Source: Zack Anderson)
MIT students have created a new shock absorber that could save the U.S. government and companies millions in overall fuel costs

A group of undergraduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have successfully created a new shock absorber that is able to generate electricity from small bumps in the road while also making the vehicle drive smoother on the road.

The idea behind the project started when the students were interested in trying to figure out "where energy is being wasted in a vehicle," said one of the seniors involved in the study.  They discovered some hybrid car models are able to proficiently recover energy from braking, and eventually decided they needed to focus specifically on the suspension.

"A significant amount of energy" was wasted after students rented a group of different rental cars and outfitted the suspensions of each car with specialized sensors to monitor energy potential.

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."

If for some reason the electronics on the shocks fail, the fail-safe feature will have the shocks act simply like a normal shock absorber.

A patent is pending, and the students created Levant Power Corp., a company so they are able to fully develop and commercialize their product.  They now plan to perfect the technology on a converted Humvee in an effort to secure a lucrative government contract for a new U.S. Army vehicle that is currently in development.

The group plans to have a final product ready this summer, when they'll start contacting companies to persuade them to upgrade their shock systems.  As an example, if Wal-Mart were to convert its fleet of trucks with these new shocks, the company could save $13 million per year in total fuel costs.

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new "pickup" line
By kattanna on 2/12/2009 5:08:20 PM , Rating: 6
hey baby.. want to help me recharge my car??


RE: new "pickup" line
By dajeepster on 2/12/2009 6:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
+1... classic

RE: new "pickup" line
By phxfreddy on 2/12/2009 6:51:15 PM , Rating: 2
Reminiscent of the old spoof of putting creme in a water bed and making butter. Honey Butter (tm) ...butter made with love.

RE: new "pickup" line
By OddTSi on 2/12/2009 7:04:12 PM , Rating: 2
This needs a '6' rating.

RE: new "pickup" line
By xii on 2/12/2009 7:28:50 PM , Rating: 2
I agree

RE: new "pickup" line
By daInvincibleGama on 2/12/2009 7:43:29 PM , Rating: 2
6. Instant classic right there. Pure genius.

RE: new "pickup" line
By Clauzii on 2/12/2009 7:53:18 PM , Rating: 2
Heh, Turn Green :)

RE: new "pickup" line
By elkabong on 2/12/2009 9:29:56 PM , Rating: 2
can we make our road i little bumpy before this thing hits the
market :}

RE: new "pickup" line
By drew494949 on 2/13/2009 3:47:45 AM , Rating: 2
We can create roads with bumps at certain distances, leading to driving with a nice rhythm, that puts children in back seats to sleep while also generating energy for the bumps.

Isn't Britain already doing the inverse of this process to also generate electricity?

RE: new "pickup" line
By mindless1 on 2/13/2009 10:52:33 PM , Rating: 2
Those things are an offense to science. Energy is transferred from the moving vehicle, requiring more gas burnt regardless of their claims. The bumps steal this when we have cleaner and less costly ways to produce electricity already. Stupidity FTW!

RE: new "pickup" line
By Dreifort on 2/13/2009 9:00:46 AM , Rating: 3
"Look at it this way. Considering the type of people you are and the environment you're in, you have to admit the strong possibility this may be the only chance you ever have in your entire lives... to have sex."

RE: new "pickup" line
By gstrickler on 2/13/2009 9:35:56 AM , Rating: 2
+1 I've already posted or I would add a point myself. Gotta love a "Real Genius" quote.

"She wanted to..."

"What, jump your bones?"

RE: new "pickup" line
By m4elstrom on 2/13/2009 1:59:58 PM , Rating: 2
I would phrase it this way:

Baby want to give me a "jump" start?

RE: new "pickup" line
By BaronVonAwesome on 2/13/2009 9:54:45 PM , Rating: 2
Funniest one liner I have seen on these forums. And that is actually saying quite a bit.

I'm not going to lie
By S3anister on 2/12/2009 5:03:37 PM , Rating: 2
This might be the coolest advancement in dampener technology that i've seen in the last decade.

RE: I'm not going to lie
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 2/12/2009 6:48:31 PM , Rating: 2
I would put as the two guys from Guinness would say, “Brilliant!”

Now what else on a car bounces or has a pump like action….

RE: I'm not going to lie
By PrinceGaz on 2/12/2009 6:51:31 PM , Rating: 3
I have to agree. Anything that can use the energy normally dissipated as heat for some useful purpose has to be a good thing. Brakes were the most obvious example and regenerative braking is now well understood, but suspension is the next best and could potentially almost replace the alternator in some cars (it would always have to be there and able to be placed on-load if you spend too long driving at steady speeds on smooth roads though to prevent the battery becoming too discharged).

You don't have to go offroad for the suspension to absorb a lot of energy, even on the average road, any braking or accelerating, or changing lane could generate useful energy from the weight of the car body. This isn't free energy, you're already paying for it in fuel-consumption in the first place, but it should provide a nice improvement over what regenerative braking alone provides.

RE: I'm not going to lie
By masher2 on 2/12/2009 9:53:05 PM , Rating: 3
Anything that can use the energy normally dissipated as heat for some useful purpose has to be a good thing
Well, not necessarily. An enormously complex system (which itself requires energy to build, install, maintain, and replace) that captures only a trivial amount of energy in exchange isn't worthwhile.

I don't mean to suggest that this falls into that category, but we should be wary of the "every little bit helps" mantra. It's not always correct, not by a long shot. A good rule of thumb is simple economics. If a system doesn't come close to paying for itself in dollars, then it probably doesn't pay off in energy terms either...since cost is a good rough measure of the amount of resources required.

RE: I'm not going to lie
By Dreifort on 2/13/2009 9:02:40 AM , Rating: 1
doesn't this fall under the same theorized platform as the "space elevator"?

RE: I'm not going to lie
By mindless1 on 2/13/2009 10:57:34 PM , Rating: 2
There's also the reliability and safety factors. Sure, they "could" be made more reliable and safer than existing standard shocks, but so could the existing shocks! One way to look at reducing waste is to aim for automobile parts that are expected to last the lifetime of the vehicle whenever possible, a category shocks don't fall into. If they're replaced at intervals suggested by manufacturers, it may add an additional $1000 to the TCO.

RE: I'm not going to lie
By Clauzii on 2/12/2009 7:40:18 PM , Rating: 2
I would say >ever< seen.

RE: I'm not going to lie
By Amiga500 on 2/13/2009 4:16:44 AM , Rating: 2
Nah, I disagree, go google Bosch suspension...

... and prepare to be amazed!

RE: I'm not going to lie
By Amiga500 on 2/13/2009 11:12:56 AM , Rating: 2
My bad!

- Bose suspension

RE: I'm not going to lie
By acase on 2/13/2009 12:52:58 PM , Rating: 2
That's pretty amazing. Kind of odd to go from speakers to suspension, but still, very cool.

RE: I'm not going to lie
By Clauzii on 2/22/2009 9:44:59 PM , Rating: 2
Late, But that was awesome. The problem is it needs energy to do it :(

A combination maybe?

RE: I'm not going to lie
By Alexvrb on 2/13/2009 2:07:15 PM , Rating: 2
Depends. From the standpoint of actual performance of the suspension itself, I'd have to say that Delphi's maglev shocks are way cooler. Maybe they could combine the two!

In related news ...
By Proxes on 2/12/2009 5:18:22 PM , Rating: 4
Missouri drivers who've installed the new shocks are now getting 90 mpg.

RE: In related news ...
By munim on 2/12/2009 5:46:35 PM , Rating: 2
Ditto for Montreal.

RE: In related news ...
By rudolphna on 2/12/2009 9:44:11 PM , Rating: 2
Bah, my granny in ohio is getting 100MPG.. Out of an Explorer. Yes, the roads are THAT bad.

RE: In related news ...
By twjr on 2/13/2009 8:10:35 AM , Rating: 2
That's nothing. Imagine what you would do in third world countries.

RE: In related news ...
By Alexvrb on 2/13/2009 1:53:15 PM , Rating: 5
Funny! But the sad part is that probably half the people reading this will actually believe that bumpier roads would increase fuel economy. That's not to say that this energy wouldn't be wasted otherwise, but even with a "regenerative suspension", the car still loses more energy from the bumps and pits than it recovers.

Have a dead battery?
By Curelom on 2/12/2009 6:22:08 PM , Rating: 2
Have a dead battery? Just push your car around the parking lot a dozen times and you should be good to go.

RE: Have a dead battery?
By gstrickler on 2/12/2009 6:31:39 PM , Rating: 5
No, just jump up and down on the bumper.

RE: Have a dead battery?
By Fireshade on 2/13/2009 7:42:27 AM , Rating: 5
Heh, a literal meaning to "jump starting" :)

RE: Have a dead battery?
By gstrickler on 2/13/2009 11:10:31 AM , Rating: 2
Glad someone is paying attention. :)

How about induction
By GreenEnvt on 2/12/2009 5:35:41 PM , Rating: 2
So this is using the movement to push fluid through a turbine. I assumed when seeing the title that it was somehow using induction with the shock moving over magnets.

I'm much more a computer guy then electrical theorist, so can someone explain if that approach might have any promise, or if it would be useless?

RE: How about induction
By Hulk on 2/12/2009 5:43:58 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the same as you. I think the displacement is too small and the forces too high for electromagnetic induction to be viable.

As usual with these "breakthroughs," how long to market, how long will it last, and how much will it cost?

RE: How about induction
By gstrickler on 2/12/2009 5:46:59 PM , Rating: 2
You could use induction, but it would be challenging to provide enough resistance to movement (e.g. dampening) to work effectively using only induction. Therefore, you need some type of dampening mechanism. What they've done is harvest the energy of a hydraulic dampener. They can probably convert a significantly higher percentage of the dampening energy into electricity than you could using induction alone, and provide a smoother ride than a non-powered inductive dampener (and a powered dampener would lose some efficiency).

RE: How about induction
By phxfreddy on 2/12/2009 6:54:02 PM , Rating: 2
Too small of a displacement. Fields required would be extremely high and then you would have to fight eddy currents. Its a good method they're using and if the 1 kw figure is real its useful for the beer can sized hybrids as well as the alternator backup. Then one would not have to do the lights off routine when nursing a sick car home at night.

Road Bump
By chboy20022002 on 2/12/2009 10:54:58 PM , Rating: 2
Put a bunch of these under some kind of shock absorbing road bumps. For eg near toll booths and generate some electricity when a car moves over the road bump and compresses the shocks. Thousands of cars slow down and cross these toll booths everyday(atleast in the NY/NJ area).

RE: Road Bump
By lennylim on 2/12/2009 11:05:46 PM , Rating: 4
Energy savings would be much, much greater if the cars don't have to slow down to cross the toll booth. But that's another topic. What this device does is to harvest otherwise wasted energy, no a new way to generate power.

Kids' beds
By wordsworm on 2/13/2009 1:07:14 AM , Rating: 2
Do you tell your kids to stop jumping in their beds? I bet you do! But now, with jump-bed technology, you can power your house! Inside each of the posts of the bed is a generator that makes electricity every time they jump. So, instead of, "Stop jumping on the bed," you might change your tune to, "Have you jumped on the bed today?" In fact, you'll be counting the pennies you save when they bring over friends to jump on the beds, and who knows, you might jump on the bed too!

RE: Kids' beds
By Fireshade on 2/13/2009 7:46:40 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, there have been many experiments with the concept you parody :)
E.g.: dance floors (dancing people generate energy), revolving doors, tredmills in gyms, etc.

RE: Kids' beds
By wordsworm on 2/13/2009 3:23:45 PM , Rating: 2
What would make more sense is to put stuff like this into gyms. All those stationary bicycles could be generating 100 watts each. Imagine there are 10 of them going for an hour - not too shabby. Then there's the resistance machines. Surely a gym with those kinds of machines would be able to get off the grid if they were able to tap into all that energy that folks are burning off.

By austinag on 2/12/2009 5:03:00 PM , Rating: 5
Dear DOT,

Please stop fixing the potholes, I need them to run my air conditioning.

Joe Mama

By obiwankenobi on 2/12/2009 6:55:16 PM , Rating: 3
drivers of chicago, rejoice!!!

Kudos !
By Casual Observer on 2/12/2009 7:29:24 PM , Rating: 2
Undergraduate empowerment. A certain amount of savoir-faire goes into a brass rat.

By Dreifort on 2/13/2009 9:17:29 AM , Rating: 2
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.

Didn't Apple patent this for their Apple III? ( ) ...I smell lawsuit.

Pot Holes
By Ratinator on 2/13/2009 11:15:41 AM , Rating: 2
People usually complain when their roads are littered with potholes and are in need of repairs. Next thing you know they will be complaining the roads are too smooth and it needs to be more rough.

By SilthDraeth on 2/14/2009 10:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
This is one of those ideas I had like a dozen years ago, and I am not sure whether I got the idea by watching some science/future technology video, or thought it on my own. Probably the former.

I know it has been mentioned to do the same concept for shoes, albeit a different method, for charging personal electronic devices.

So I am glad someone or (group in this case) finally worked out how to do it.

A generator powers a turbine?
By toolguy on 2/16/2009 3:33:53 PM , Rating: 2
The new shocks have a tiny turbine powered by a generator

I think the turbine is powered by the hydraulic fluid, and the turbine powers the generator.

By TheSpaniard on 2/12/2009 7:25:59 PM , Rating: 2
if you do that then you rob that energy from the piston turning the crank (I think)

if this is greater than 30% efficient than by all means do it to it

By Kinshinlink on 2/12/2009 7:29:17 PM , Rating: 2
your right we should make use of these new shock absorbers. ill be putting some in my shoes to charge my cell phone, on my refrigerator door to help power the light, or inside the buttons of my keyboard so the batteries last longer.

now do you see the practicality of it all? shock absorbers is one thing especially since their is tremendous force under the weight of the car, but all over the engine? come on

By Veerappan on 2/12/2009 8:21:01 PM , Rating: 4
I've wondered why hybrids don't use generators that take advantage of the motion of the wheels to generate electricity instead of just the brakes. If a standard car has one alternator that's running on a belt from the engine, why not put an alternator on each wheel, or at each point where a similar motion (spinning) occurs? Wouldn't that generate more electricity? Wouldn't that electricity help a hybrid run on batteries longer?

It doesn't quite work that way... by trying to generate electricity from the rotation of the wheels while accelerating/cruising as opposed to braking, you'd be introducing drag on the wheels, which would slow the car down, actually decreasing mileage (the energy you'd generate would be less than that used to spin the wheels in the first place due to inefficiencies in the conversion process). Hybrids use regenerative braking to recover energy when braking because this is energy which would otherwise be lost as heat from the rotors/brake pads. The same thing doesn't apply to the wheels when not trying to slow down.

By JonnyDough on 2/12/2009 10:52:04 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, if you had magnetic plates on the wheels you could in fact use them to both brake and regenerate...

The weight addition would be offset by a new brake design that uses magnetism to brake instead of standard grinding brakes. Furthermore, you wouldn't need to replace pads!

Something like this will LIKELY be the FUTURE OF BRAKES! Someone get to work on it!

By c4xp on 2/13/2009 1:06:26 AM , Rating: 3
NdFeB Magnetic plates already have been used to slow down cars (well the North American Eagle contender at world fastest car though).

You guys forget the economics.
While the magnetic breaking plates exists, they are not feasible from the economic stand point of building a vehicle.

Instead these energy generating shocks are much feasible, because they can replace the alternator altogether.

AND there is something else you guys forget: the alternator contributes to loss of engine horse power and adds some weight (small is it may be).

Genius: three birds with ones stone: gain Horsepower, generate current, reduce weight.

By JonnyDough on 2/13/2009 4:01:53 AM , Rating: 3
I'm not sure how magnetic plates to replace the braking system is not a good idea. You want to talk about economics, then scrap the automobile altogether and switch to monorail systems. FAR more economical and practical. Not to mention much more safe.

By PrimarchLion on 2/13/2009 5:37:15 AM , Rating: 2
Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,
Six-car Monorail!
What'd I say?

By Bubbacub on 2/13/2009 5:47:25 AM , Rating: 2

luv the simpsons

By Homerboy on 2/13/2009 10:14:09 AM , Rating: 2
That's more of a Shelbyville idea...

By mindless1 on 2/13/2009 11:13:25 PM , Rating: 2
Economics is in fact very important. To have great gains we need products the average consumer can afford.

Further, in real life bits of metal get stuck to huge magnets. What if they don't provide as much stopping power either? What if they are a safety risk for anyone taking a wheel off the vehicle? We could say that's Darwinism, but fact is lawnmowers have warnings to keep people from cutting hands and feet off while running too, people do dumb things.

In considering any design change you have to look at the negatives, not just brush them under the rug.

By Clauzii on 2/12/2009 7:30:26 PM , Rating: 5
In the engine You want as much of the cumbustion energy as possible, to be transferred to the weels, so tapping energy would cost energy; more fuel.

In a shock absorber You actually want to PREVENT energy from reaching the other end of the absorber which equals free energy to be tapped off thru this invention.

By NesuD on 2/13/2009 7:52:19 AM , Rating: 3
In the engine You want as much of the cumbustion energy as possible, to be transferred to the weels, so tapping energy would cost energy; more fuel.

That is pretty much dead on except I would say the energy transfer of the engine/drivetrain system actually goes to the road surface rather than the wheels. The thing he isn't getting is the engine/drivetrain energy system is a closed system. all the energy found in that system originates in the engines combustion process. Anyplace you capture energy in that system reduces the amount of energy available for the end transfer to the road surface. The engine must then work harder to replace that energy. Because converting energy from one form to another is never a 1:1 proposition you would actually end up being less energy efficient doing what knight proposed. Capturing energy through the linear flow of fluids in the engine would impart a resistance to that flow which is ultimately powered by the combustion of the engine requiring the engine to work harder to overcome the resistance created by that capturing process. Now on the other hand if you could capture some of the heat radiating from the engine block or the cars radiator and convert it to a usable amount of energy that would be a different story. That is lost energy that has essentially escaped the engine /drivetrain system at the point of capture.

By twjr on 2/13/2009 8:22:38 AM , Rating: 2
Now on the other hand if you could capture some of the heat radiating from the engine block or the cars radiator and convert it to a usable amount of energy that would be a different story. That is lost energy that has essentially escaped the engine /drivetrain system at the point of capture.

That just made me think. Why hasn't the cooling system in cars been tapped for electrical generation? Surely it is the largest loss of energy. If you were to use this energy not only would you cool the engine but generate power.

By b534202 on 2/13/2009 12:53:03 PM , Rating: 2
A steam turbine sort of power generator running off coolant would be too big & heavy?

By Suntan on 2/13/2009 1:34:08 PM , Rating: 2
A steam turbine will not do anything as the thermostat of most all cars is usually set around 180°F.


By Suntan on 2/13/2009 1:32:18 PM , Rating: 2
Because it just isn’t practical. The energy given off isn’t worth all that much (low grade energy.)

That said, BMW has a design for such a system, to my knowledge they have not tried to commercialize it on any of their production vehicles.

Lastly, a turbocharger is one form of machine that makes use of waist energy (in the exhaust stream) to compress the incoming air (intake stream.)


By JediJeb on 2/13/2009 1:59:59 PM , Rating: 2
The only system that could possibly make use of the waste heat in the cooling system would be thermocouples. You might generate enough power to run some LEDs on the dashboard but probably not much more.

By bodar on 2/12/2009 7:36:46 PM , Rating: 2
These generators play off of the inherent compression/resistance of shocks though. You can't apply the same theory to them without giving resistance to the piston -- which equals lost power. I don't even know how you'd involve a rotating camshaft, esp. without similarly robbing it of energy. This isn't magic or something. It works BECAUSE shocks are not involved in the power train.

By Alexstarfire on 2/12/2009 9:21:44 PM , Rating: 5
OMG, please go retake your intro to physics class as it obviously flew out of your head. If it just required the energy to push the fan then no energy would be produced/gathered. In order to capture energy there has to be a positive net input, not a balanced input. And if you are doing that then you'd be preventing that energy from being used where it was intended to go, i.e. the wheels. At best you'd have exactly the same energy going to the wheel as you did before. You have to look for places where energy is lost so that you can find a way to recoup. You can't just spontaneously make energy out of no where.

By theapparition on 2/13/2009 1:04:02 AM , Rating: 2
While your at it, why not just attach a perpetual motion machine, since that's pretty much what you're implying.

Any energy gained from cylinder motion immediately robs the engine of said energy + the inefficiency of the transfer. Net result, lower overall energy.

By Amiga500 on 2/13/2009 4:15:34 AM , Rating: 2
We already do recover alot of lost KE from the pistons... (kind of)

It is called a turbo ;-)

By DustinD on 2/13/2009 10:06:53 AM , Rating: 2
Now if only turbo compound engines were more common.

Someone should also try to use the excess heat in the cooling and exhaust systems to power some type of energy capturing system.

By Amiga500 on 2/13/2009 10:13:16 AM , Rating: 2
Google six-stroke engines...

Uses a water/steam cycle after the 4th conventional stroke to get another powered stroke.

Inject water, which quickly turns to steam and expands when the cylinder is piping hot.

Suck(P)-squeeze(P)-bang(P)-blow(P)-bang(W)-blow(W )

(P) = Petrol
(W) = Water

By Myg on 2/12/09, Rating: -1
RE: ...
By danrien on 2/12/2009 6:12:45 PM , Rating: 4
so no one should innovate, due to the fact that it costs money?

RE: ...
By Myg on 2/13/09, Rating: 0
RE: ...
By gstrickler on 2/13/2009 11:37:06 AM , Rating: 1
Reducing losses is "reductionist".

RE: ...
By Hexxx on 2/13/2009 11:49:51 AM , Rating: 2
I bet cavemen didn't use much energy resources. Maybe we should discard technology altogether.

BTW I doubt with a potential 10% energy saving from +- 600 million vehicles far outweighs the "lost energy" in this case.

RE: ...
By Hexxx on 2/13/2009 11:53:35 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry should read:

The potential 10% energy saving from +- 600 million vehicles far outweighs the "lost energy" in this case.

(researched the amount of vehicles mid sentence)

RE: ...
By Myg on 2/13/2009 12:48:16 PM , Rating: 2
"Maybe we should discard technology altogether"

You lot are a riot, "technology apologists" subscribing to absolutism; all those 1s and 0s must have gotten to your head..

But again; your words, not mine.

RE: ...
By gstrickler on 2/13/2009 1:50:51 PM , Rating: 1
But again; your words, not mine.
That's good, because while your original post might have intended to be funny/clever, everything you've said since then has been idiotic.

RE: ...
By danrien on 2/17/2009 9:04:06 PM , Rating: 2
Haha please stop using your computer and posting on this electronic forum you are hurting your argument.

RE: ...
By mindless1 on 2/13/2009 11:07:33 PM , Rating: 2
yes, we should not innovate when it costs money, when that innovation is not something we particularly care about. If we cared we'd all choose smaller more fuel efficient cars and change our driving habits. Actions speak louder than words.

RE: ...
By knightspawn1138 on 2/13/2009 12:09:03 PM , Rating: 1
No, you're thinking of solar panels. :P

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