Clean Air Technologies Series kick-off: Shock-absorber packs ‘power’-ful punch

Over the centuries, ways have been found to put energy to work and as long as creative thinking never ceases, work on finding new ways to put energy to work will continue.

Figured out have been methods to harness the power of the sun, wind, water and geothermal steam. Consider also the addition of the seemingly limitless supply of fossil fuels, everything from coal to oil and natural gas and, looked at in its entirety, one should at least have some sense of the extent or size of the natural resources realm. With this in mind, think for a moment what human existence today would be like had such resources not been discovered. I, for one, can’t imagine.

158px-Turbine_aalborg[1]I’m thinking energy sources can be divided into two groups: renewable and non-renewable. Whereas renewables like solar, water and wind, for example, are the cleaner sources of the two, the non-renewables like coal, oil and natural gas, are the “less-than-clean” sources of the groupings.

Here’s the rub: that global energy production from fossil-fuel burning is as pronounced as it is, a byproduct of which is the release of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere creating an ever-present human-health hazard, to slow and perhaps reverse the air damage already done, sustainable energy-production methods must not only be employed but exploited as well.

That being the focus, starting with this blog-post, begun is this Clean Air Technologies Series or CATS.

Presented here are ideas with substance, concepts that can really make an impact and, in many cases, do.

So, with that, and without further ado, I introduce CATS.

‘Power’-ful shock-absorber

Leading off is a shock-absorber of sorts that converts vibration into electrical energy. This type of energy- conversion device falls under the category of “transducer.” A transducer, as the word might suggest, converts one form of energy into another. Microphones and loudspeakers for instance are transducers.

“Lei Zuo seeks answers along rutted highways and desolate railroad tracks,” Joe Ryan in Newsday’s “Stony Brook scientist seeks to harvest kinetic energy,” wrote. “The Stony Brook University [New York] professor invents products to generate electricity from vibrations all around us. He has licensed technology to a California company for an automotive shock absorber that produces wattage from bumpy roads. He designed a contraption to derive electricity from swaying skyscrapers. And he built a device that harnesses the rumble of passing trains to power crossing gates in the middle of nowhere.”

If you think Zuo isn’t onto something, consider that the world market for inventions like his is forecast to be $700 million this year alone and in the coming decade growth in this area is expected to reach $5 billion, according to the IDTechEx market research firm, Ryan noted. It’s big business.

“Predicting the economic potential of Zuo’s devices is difficult. But similar ideas have hit pay dirt. Toyota and Honda, for instance, use technology akin to his shock absorber in the brakes of hybrid vehicles.

“The concept, called energy harvesting, flows from century-old methods of tapping movements of wind and water to power electric generators.”

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be changed. And so the race is on to find, as Ryan put it, “new ways to put that old principle to use.”

Similar ideas to be presented, so please stay tuned.

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Nov. 29, 2019 @ 7:23 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.