When your car hits a bump in the road, sometimes it feels like a tree has smashed into your vehicle. As your car’s shock absorbers kick into action, energy radiates away from the car. What if there were a way to harness that energy back into the moving vehicle? Scientific American reports that two engineering students from MIT have invented a device that does just that.

Zack Anderson and Shakeel Avadhany of Massachusetts Institute of Technology came up with the idea to harness escaping energy after one particularly bumpy car ride in California. They decided to strap on a couple of sensors to some rental cars and take them on a pot hole-ridden drive. Now they are the inventers of GenShock, a shock absorber that reportedly retains all the energy created by a rocky ride. It doesn’t save any notable amounts of gas for an individual driver, but the saved energy does add up when you consider the millions of vehicles on the road. As Scientific American reports, “In 2007, medium-sized and heavy trucks used 34 billion gallons of diesel fuel. According to ... analysis, trimming 1 percent of that fuel would have saved 3.4 million tons of CO2.”

Working in their dorm room, Anderson and Avadhany thought about how a bumpy motion could move a small turbine, which would then connect to a generator that feeds the car's battery. Early versions of the experiment were messy. As Anderson told Scientific American, "In the bathroom, we had hydraulic fluid leaking down the drain. It looked like a nuclear fusion project. I mean, you had tubes going all over, it looked really ridiculous. But it was that first working prototype."

The two students soldiered on with their project. With the help of MIT professors, they were soon meeting with businesspeople who could help get their invention on the road. Anderson and Avadhany founded Levant Power, a company to market their new device. Ultimately, Anderson and Avadhany hope to use the device not only on new cars but to replace the shocks on old ones as well. The military is also interested for a more practical reason. As Scientific American reports, GenShock could prevent heat loss “vulnerability” to enemies who have infrared cameras on the field.

For further reading: Turning bumpy roads into an electrifying new product

New device turns bumps in the road into energy
Two college students have developed a method for capturing energy lost to potholes and other rough surfaces.