28 October 2015 16:05

A Formula 1-loving Lancaster engineering student has invented a radical new suspension design.

By achieving a delay in compression and expansion as well as a physical stop mechanism to prevent ‘bottoming-out’ the design promises to reduce maintenance costs and extend the lifespan of shock absorbers on all kinds of vehicles from cars and planes to mountain bikes and landing craft.

Consisting of a series of interacting fixed and mobile pivoted components, the design  extends the effective damping of shock absorbers so less materials are required than are needed for conventional shock absorbers and their set-ups – also reducing the cost to manufacturers.

Abigail Carson, 20, who is in her third year studying Mechanical Engineering at Lancaster and is involved with the Formula Student team and Lancaster’s Racing Club, said: “All suspension designs are very similar. If greater damping is needed then they are made longer and bigger, consuming more space. No-one has optimised them before.

“I was studying a module on vibration isolation and I began looking into problems related to shock absorbers and suspension systems. I was quite surprised no-one has extended the travel of shock absorbers like this before and so I began doing more research into it until I came up with my design.

“It is adaptable to anything – pretty much anything that uses a suspension system can be bettered with this.”

Miss Carson, who is originally from Cambridgeshire would like to work in a cutting-edge field such as Formula 1, has a patent pending and is looking into companies to licence her patent’s rights to.

Professor Jianqiao Ye, from Lancaster University’s Engineering Department, said: “Abigail’s design is clearly innovative and there is no similar device available in the market.

“The damping system has commercial potential to be used in the design of products such as mountain bikes, though the mechanism of the shock absorber can be implemented in many other applications.

“Abi’s work is a fine example of how our engineering programs have inspired our students in converting theory to practice. At Lancaster, we provide technical support and funding to all students to support innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Miss Carson received advice and support from the Engineering Department and the university to help with her patent application.

Tom Abram, Senior Project Engineer in the Engineering department’s Lancaster Product Development Unit, said, “The system she had designed showed remarkable initiative by utilising skills she has learned whilst at University and applying them to produce a novel design. She has demonstrated creative thinking, problem solving and determination in getting the system to its current state.”

More information about Engineering at Lancaster University can be found by visiting http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/engineering/