Cleaning Oil Spills With Magnets

Some of the latest technology in suspension damping has to do with magnetorheoligical shocks. Your traditional shock is filled with oil that is forced through valves in order to provide resistance to velocity otherwise known as damping. The amount of damping force you get is dependent on the viscosity of the oil, the size of the valve and how fast you are moving it through the oil. The oil viscosity and damping are pretty much permanent once the shock has been assembled.

Magnetorheological fluid is an oil that has magnetic microparticles suspended in it. What makes this interesting is that the fluid’s effective viscosity can be changed by exposure to an electromagnet. This electromagnet in turn can be controlled by a computer capable of dialing in the perfect amount of damping for the road surface the car is about to encounter. GM has featured magnetorheological shocks on the Cadillac CTS-V, the Corvette ZR-1 and the Camaro ZL1 and it’s starting to find its way on to more Cadillac models. A very similar technology is also used on the Ferrari 458 Italia and some of Acura’s models.

The folks at MIT have recently patented a new use for magnetorheological technology. Their plan is to use it to clean up oil spills. The basic concept is that magnetic particles are given a surface treatment that allows it to repel water and embed in the oil just like the magnetorheological suspension fluid. Removing the oil then simply becomes a matter of putting a magnet to it. The particles can even be removed from the oil and reused once it’s been collected. Like I mentioned in the rapid prototyped eagle beak story, there is a balance in all things even engineering. Our high demand for automobile usage is what puts the oceans at risk for oil spills. At least something we’ve developed to make your car handle better can also help safely remove oil from our oceans.

Here’s an extra “Science is Cool!” video. It’s two spiral electromagnets in magnetorheological fluid with music speaker currents flowing through them.

Sources: MIT News Office on YouTube via IO9 and YouTube user rdig1

How Much is Too Much for Gasoline?

Honda did this street poll to see how expensive gasoline had to be for people to consider buying a more fuel efficient car. Most people said $5/gallon which we are forecast to hit this summer. They also ask some interesting questions about fuel efficiency and alternative fuel. I thought it was pretty interesting to see where the general public stood on these issues.

Source: Honda on YouTube

Oil and the Economy

Epipheo put together this simple and effective explanation on how our economy is tied to oil. Every time we start to thrive, the US increases its demand for oil which drives the price up and slows our growth. The video advocates the starting of a “third industrial revolution.” This revolution would be the development of electric cars and multiple clean and renewable energy sources to ween us off our oil and fossil fuel dependence. I started this site and the electric vehicle conversion project because I believe that gear heads need to contribute and stake their claim in this third industrial revolution. It’ll leave us behind if we let it.

Source: Epipheo via Gizmodo

Why Build An Electric Car? Part 1: Oil

My reasons for building electric cars are split into two categories: oil and engineering. We’ll discuss oil first. The two main points here are that oil is running out and our usage and harvesting of it is causing irreparable damage to our planet. I’ll prove it to you.

Hubbert Peak Theory

In 1956, Marion King Hubbert, an American geoscientist, came up with the Peak Oil Production theory. What he figured out was that if you make a graph with time on the X-axis and oil production on the Y-axis, it will look like a bell curve. Oil production started small because we were still developing the techniques for finding and harvesting oil. As the processes were mastered and the infrastructure built, oil production rose until it peaked in the mid-70’s. It’s no coincidence that the Golden Age of muscle cars was also during the mid-70’s. Oil production then started to decrease as we used up the oil from the high quality, easy to find deposits. In order to keep producing oil, we now have to look harder to find oil deposits of lower quality. More effort and money has to be spent to produce each barrel of oil. From here, the price of oil keeps climbing and supplies keep dwindling until there’s nothing left. US oil production has followed Hubbert’s Theory pretty closely which currently puts us on the back side of the bell curve. That means big companies are starting to go through some pretty ridiculous measures to continue to find oil. Here’s what the future of oil production holds for us all:

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