Students Design Fluid Power Bicycles

Parker Hannifin’s Chainless Challenge event encourages students to experiment with fluid power.

Students Design Fluid Power BicyclesFluid power has an amazing range of possible applications, but you have probably never heard of a hydraulic bicycle before. The 9 teams of college students that competed in Parker Hannifin’s Chainless Challenge earlier this month probably hadn’t either.

The students were challenged to create a bike design that used fluid power in place of the traditional chain system. Each team worked closely with a representative from Parker to design and build their bike over the course of two semesters. Then, they brought their creations to the former El Toro Air Station near Irvine CA to compete against one other. The students put their hydraulic designs through the paces on three challenges: a sprint race, a 6-mile long distance race, and an efficiency race.

Isn’t hydraulic equipment too bulky for a bike? you might ask. Well, actually yes. Several of the teams opted to actually design a tricycle rather than a bicycle in order to compensate for the added weight and bulk of hydraulic pumps and motors, accumulators, hoses, fittings, etc. However, one team from Illinois Institute of Technology did come up with a more lightweight, streamlined design that incorporated hydraulic cylinders to turn the bike’s wheels. This use of hydraulic cylinders was also much more efficient than using pumps and motors to turn the wheels.

Other exciting ideas to come out of the competition included designs incorporating regenerative braking and energy recovery, which are currently hot topics in the world of hybrid hydraulic vehicle design.

Of course, it is hard to beat the traditional chain and sprocket design for a bicycle, and in reality a hydraulic bicycle is probably never going to be a valid commercial product. But according to a Parker representative, designing a commercial product really isn’t the point.

The point of the Chainless Challenge is to engage students in hydraulics outside the classroom. Parker sees it as a creative way to get students interested in a technology that is at the core of many different industries from construction to agriculture. Parker also uses the event as a recruiting tool.

This event, as well as other outreach programs such as Parker’s introduction of fluid power training labs to 15 two-year colleges, is a perfect example of Parker’s dedication to innovation in hydraulic design. It’s this type of innovative thinking that has allowed Parker to develop such reliable, high-performance products, and as an authorized ParkerStore, Bernell Hydraulics is proud to carry them.

If you need to source any kind of genuine Parker hydraulic parts, please call 909-899-1751 now.

Posted on April 27, 2015
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