Gas Shock Absorbers
Next time you doze off while riding in a car, thank George Westinghouse. In 1910, Westinghouse invented a compressed air shock absorber for cars. Before that time, riding in a car could be extremely rough. Most early automotive suspensions used leaf or coil springs. Leaf springs are curved pieces of metal; the car's body sits at the top of the curve, which gives somewhat as the car travels over rough surfaces, relieving the bumps. A coil spring is a coiled piece of metal that compresses over bumps.
A compressed air spring or shock absorber uses pressurized air or other gasses -- not metal -- to absorb bumps. In the shock absorber, pressure builds up. When the car hits a bump, the compressed gas in the shock absorber pushes back against the outside forces, keeping the ride smooth. Today, many luxury cars and off-road vehicles use compressed air suspensions that operate on similar principles to Westinghouse's initial idea. Low riders and cars that have adjustable suspensions use the technology. Who knew that old George was so cool? But the best part of this story is that the compressed air shock absorber came from his early work on railroad safety. Keep reading to find out more.