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New method of “harvesting” energy from shock absorbers

24 October 2016

Boosting the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles by “harvesting” the energy generated by their shock absorbers has become a major goal in automotive engineering.

Image courtesy of University of Huddersfield

Now, a University of Huddersfield researcher has made a breakthrough by designing a new system and constructing a prototype that is ready for real-world testing.

Ruichen Wang carried out the project to obtain his doctorate at the University and has published his findings. The article, in the journal Energies, is titled Modelling, Testing and Analysis of a Regenerative Hydraulic Shock System. It provides a summary of current progress in the field of vehicle energy harvesting and a detailed account of the theory and the practical development of his device, designed for installation in a heavy good vehicle.

Considerable work has already been done harvesting energy from brake systems, so Dr Wang decided to focus on the suspension.

After working on the mathematics, computational analysis and design of his device, Dr Wang personally constructed his full-size, ready-to-test prototype.

Harvested energy can be used for any auxiliary purpose in a vehicle, said Professor Ball, and in hybrids it could recharge the electric motor. 

The next stage is to work with an industrial partner to install and test Dr Wang’s system in a road-going vehicle. But the technology has a wide application and there is every possibility that it could be adapted for rail vehicles – especially as Dr Wang has taken up a full-time research post at the University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research (IRR). 

Dr Paul Allen, who leads the IRR’s Centre for Innovation in Rail, explains: “We are now exploring how Dr Wang’s energy harvesting and modelling techniques can be applied to developing low-cost self-health monitoring dampers for railway vehicles, a project which already has two industrial partners.”

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