(Winner of an HP Workstation)

Regenerative Braking Bike Front Wheel

David Swain, Frank Maurer, Jason Moore, and Albert Shih Ann Arbor, MI

With the push of a button and without any pedalling or external energy, a regenerative front wheel can bring a bicycle back to its previous speed after a rider has hit the brakes. Non-spinning hydraulics, which are located in the center of the wheel, store braking and hill energy for later release.

The wheel acts as an alternative to small, 20-amp-hour batteries used for electric bicycles. An electric bike, however, needs to be plugged in at night, and its batteries need to be replaced and recycled after a number of charges. Using available off-the-shelf hydraulics, the 20" wheel adds less than 12 pounds to the weight of the bike, according to the inventors — a modest increase, since acceleration makes up such a large part of the bicycle-riding burden.

“This category win tells me that the bicycle is really still alive, and people see it as having potential for reducing our global dependence on oil. As we see engines becoming smaller, hydraulics will become the cheapest way to give the vehicle that extra acceleration that we've grown accustomed to without a fuel or energy penalty.” – David Swain, Inventor

The inventors estimate that the retrofit front wheel for any bicycle is likely to cost $175 in a retail market, and the team’s ultimate goal is to make the device a retrofit front wheel for any bicycle using hydraulic pump motors. Other applications include providing two-wheel drive for mountain biking, range extension for wheelchairs, and extra torque and acceleration for small utility vehicles, delivery, and other city stop-and-go vehicles.

For more information, visit www.techbriefs.com/ctf_braking. Contact the inventor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Click here to view the Sustainable Technologies Category Winner.

Honorable Mentions

VariCruz Chain-Linked Variable Transmission

Christopher Yonge

Santa Cruz, CA

The VariCruz is a chain-linked — not friction-based — variable gear transmission, built from a handful of simple components in circular arrays. The ends of the transmission’s arms carry devices that engage with the chain links in one direction, but allow the chain to slide unobstructed in the other, similar in action to conventional sprockets. A bicycle powered by a VariCruz has two identical cassettes controlled by one handlebar twist grip. The addition of spring loading inside the cassette turns the device from speed-selection to torque-selection, where the rider chooses the amount of force that he or she wants to exert on the pedals. The VariCruz changes its gearing to keep that force constant, regardless of the gradient.

For more information, visit www.techbriefs.com/ctf_chain.

Use of Inductive Coupling to Automatically Charge

Paul Tinari Coquitlam, BC, Canada

As electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids become commercially available, keeping the batteries of these vehicles fully charged will be a major priority. Instead of relying on terminals installed in homes or in special designated areas, this technology uses inductive coupling to recharge a vehicle each time it parks. Inductive Coupling Technology (ICT) transfers wireless power from one surface to any ICT-compatible device, eliminating the need for power cords and battery chargers, or even on/off switches. Copper coils are strategically placed within the charging panel located at the front end of each parking space, and in the bumper of each electric vehicle.

For more information, visit www.techbriefs.com/ctf_inductive.