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Detroit Auto News: "The Next Best Thing in Suspension"

Rob

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From the Detroit Auto News - Monday, June 24:

The next big thing in suspension


By John McCormick / Autos Insider

Imagine whipping into your favorite corner and having your vehicle bank into the turn like an aircraft. Instead of wrestling with the wheel as the car leans to the outside as happens today, the tires of your 'banked' car or truck would grip better and you'd feel more in control.
Many years ago, Britain's Lotus Engineering worked on such a concept, but was hampered by a power-robbing, complex system. Now the idea has been resurrected based on a more straightforward, but very clever technology; magneto-rheological fluid-based shock dampers.
Though the composition of the fluid in these dampers is extremely intricate and has been under development by General Motors Corp. and Delphi Automotive Systems since the 1970s, the application is elegant in its simplicity.

magneride.jpg
Photo: Courtesy of GM Media Archives

To demonstrate the theory, Tadge Juechter, assistant chief engineer on the Chevrolet Corvette, holds a pair of syringes joined at the nozzles. The dark fluid inside the syringes can be pumped to and fro with ease until a small magnet is attached to the nozzles. Suddenly the fluid takes on the consistency of concrete and can scarcely be moved.
Coated iron particles suspended in the fluid clump together under magnetic force and slow or stop the motion of the liquid. For Juechter and his colleagues this patented (and expensive) fluid is the answer to a long-held challenge; giving the Corvette less of a bone-jarring ride.
To this end, the 2003 Corvette 50th anniversary edition comes as standard with what GM has dubbed 'magnetic ride control' or MR. The shocks on the Corvette (and also the 2002 Cadillac Seville STS) work five times faster than previous real time damping systems. With the MR system, sensors detect wheel movement and a computer energizes coils on each damper. The intensity of the coils' magnetic fields controls the flow of fluid through the damper orifices, thereby regulating the damping effect. It all happens at lightening speed, up to 1000 times per second.
"The Corvette can use MR because body motion control and aggressive driving really go hand in hand; the faster you drive, the more energy you're putting into the chassis and the greater your need to take energy out. That's where this system really shines. It can intelligently take energy out when it's most appropriate, keeping the body motions under control and giving the ride comfort when you need it."
Juechter says in the world of suspension technology, MR is definitely the next big thing. "Considering how long automotive suspensions have been in development - over 100 years - to come up with a big step is difficult at this point. Great minds around the world have been thinking about this for a long time."
For now the application of MR in the STS, Corvette and other coming GM products is mainly to improve ride quality. But Juechter says the Corvette team has just started working on the corner banking effect. "You could actually use the energy of an uneven road to jack the car up," he explains. "You would create a check valve in the shock so you are jacking up the outboard side of car at the same time as you are tugging down on the inbound side."
Such a system is several years away, but it and other MR-based developments are coming, states Juechter. "The sky is the limit. These things are only limited by the creativity of the engineers and the software developers."
John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Insider and can be reached at jmccormick@detnews.com
 
M

MacShee98

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Thanks for the article, Rob. I can't wait for the car magazines to start testing the new suspension in the 2003's, lateral g's, slalom speeds. I'm betting the Selective Magnetic Ride Control is going to be very impressive indeed.
 

rwd

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I think the title needs reworking. We want the best thing, not the next best thing.
 

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