Back in March when I heard the news that some Yale engineering students produced a spokeless bicycle wheel, I wrote that while that was nice and all, I sure wish they would have put their minds to better use by asking riders what they could actually use and that way they could have put the substantial power of their ivy league brains toward a practical bike related project that the average cyclist would get excited about.
I have no idea how they came up with their project and on top of that I have no idea what engineering principles they might have been trying to address (maybe the professor had specific learning objectives), however when I saw the project I was less than excited. Of course I should also note that a simple zip tie gets me really excited so maybe I am a sort of simpleton.
As a part of my entry on the spokeless wheel I typed up a few ideas on engineering projects that would get me excited, and encouraged readers to do the same. You can revisit the entry if you like to see some of the ideas and links to products readers were excited about. The thought I still have in mind is to send a list of the proposed projects or links to entries on Bike Hacks to engineering departments at colleges and universities around the world in the hope that professors would consider encouraging students to work on some of the ideas.
Recently when picking up some take out on the commute home I serendipitously stumbled on at least what I think is another great idea, and a practical one at that. Some engineer out there might tell me I'm an idiot, but that's okay, it won't be the first time that accusation has been leveled against me =)
So here's my story and idea . . .
I was picking up Vietnamese food one night on the way home and I exited the restaurant, unlocked my bike, and started my journey home. I started to peddle and heard a rhythmic ticking sound. I kept riding and looked to see if a stick or leaf or some such thing had lodged in my spokes. I did not see anything but the sound persisted and since I was going down a hill I did not think it was a good idea to let it go. I jammed on my brakes and came to a stop. I spun my front wheel and it did not take long for me to figure it out. I had inadvertently bumped the magnetic sensor of my cycle computer when locking up my bike and the sensor was bumping into the corresponding sensor attached to my front fork.
I bent down to adjust the sensor and ended up resting my had on my brake disc and it did not take long for me to regret that as my nerves fired a signal to my brain telling me that the brake disc was freaking hot. Turns out they heat up a bit, especially when stopping on a hill. I yanked my hand away and chastised myself for my stupidity.
However, while shaking my hand in aggravation, a light went on in my head as I stared at my front brake disc. Like any other brake disc mine has series of geometric holes in it. See for yourself:
For some reason I immediately thought of watch gears, and then I thought about gears that are used in helping to generate power. I then thought about the traditional bike tire based dynamo that has been used to generate power. Like this one:
Image Credit to MyraSimon.com
I then thought, "Why not create a dynamo that runs off a gear that fits into a brake disc?" Not exactly like this picture, but you hopefully get the idea that filled my head:
You would just need to create a gear wheel that would fit the pattern in the brake disc and voila, instant power generator. It's basically taking the idea used with the tire based dynamo, but taking it up a notch. You get it? Taking it up a "notch" . . . I kill myself.
It would be enough to say power a light so you would not need to keep charging batteries all of the time like I do.
Okay folks, if you are an engineer, tell me why my idea of using the motion of a brake disc to generate power might be stupid. And if you are an entrepreneur who creates this, I'll take 10% of the profits =)
Do you have "a call to engineers?" Feel free to comment or to submit it to us.