Popular Science just announced its picks for the 2009 Innvention Awards, which highlight work done on a low budget by tinkerers. It’s an inspiring lot that addresses big problems—Look at the GenShock, a shock absorber for heavy vehicles that generates energy while improving fuel economy.
Shakeel Avadhany and Zack Anderson invented GenShock when they were still students at MIT. When the shock hits a bump, a piston compresses hydraulic fluid, which is then circulated through a hydraulic motor. That motor generates electricity to charge the battery–a lot of electricity, in fact: Over rough terrain, about five kilowatts an hour, or seven times as much as regular, battery-charging alternators. That in turn saves the gas used by the alternator. Commercial and military vehicles stand to improve fuel efficiency by upwards of 5%. Thus the shock absorbers can pay for themselves in a bit over a year. Already, Avadhany and Anderson’s company, Levant, is in talks with the military, for potential use in Humvees.
The nine other winning inventions were no less impressive. Among them: A “green Styrofoam” made of mushrooms rather than petrochemicals; a device that translates brain signals to the vocal cords into audible speech, to aid those stricken with diseases such as ALS; and a home generator that runs on kitchen grease. But perhaps the sexist winner was the SixthSense interactive device, which makes Minority Report-style interfaces into a reality and won a standing ovation at TED: