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06-08-2000

Clarkson Students Could Revolutionize Trucking Industry With State-of-the-art Experiment

[A JPEG image of the experiment on the truck is available via e-mail, overnight delivery and at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/truckdoors.jpg]

Fresh from a nationwide road trip, an experimental fuel saving device invented by Clarkson University students may revolutionize the trucking industry.truckdoors

Although final numbers are not complete, Jamison D. Coon, a graduate student working on the project, said preliminary figures show that invention attached saved approximately one-half mile-per-gallon, an increase in fuel efficiency of about 10 percent.

“That’s what we were looking for,” said Coon. “The truck operates at 5½ -6 miles-per-gallon.  They saved $150 in gas.  Multiply that by 40 trips per year, and that’s a savings of $6,000 per year.”

The prototype was mounted to a truck owned by Lavalle Transportation Inc. of Potsdam, which left on a cross-country trip May 19, going to Washington State, California and Georgia.  The truck returned to Potsdam on May 27.

“The numbers are positive, but we don’t have the numbers from the computer yet,” added Kenneth D. Visser, assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering and project adviser.  “The whole thing stayed together, so that was good.”

Attached to the rear doors of a truck, the device resembles a set of second doors when closed and opens out into a box-like structure.  Students in a senior Integrated Design course and an independent study course conducted research on the rear end of the trailers this past semester, using the Clarkson Subsonic Wind Tunnel to test various shapes.

While testing in the wind tunnel, the students became familiar with various aspects of data acquisition, research, writing computer software, patent searches, federal restrictions, and many other aspects of resolving the problem.

“The experiment was a great way for the students to test something subscale in the wind tunnel and then actually build something full scale and test it,” said Visser.

The students received help in getting their project off the ground via a grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), a non-profit organization that issues grants to students with entrepreneurial interests.  The grant offered the students an opportunity to expand their work beyond the Clarkson University labs and facilities.

As a result of working on the project, three of the students have been inspired to pursue graduate school in the field of mechanical engineering-- two at Clarkson University.

“It’s a feather in the cap for the students that’s for sure,” said Visser. “It seems to have held up pretty well.”

For more information on the project, contact Professor Ken Visser at 315-268-7687, by e-mail at visser@clarkson.edu, or check out the project’s Web page at http://www.clarkson.edu/mae/studentPages/trailer.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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