Not all tires are the same. It depends on where they are used and what functions they should fulfill. Special requirements apply to moon and Mars rover missions. That is why the US space agency Nasa itself is researching technologies for such special missions. The vehicles that are flown to Mars or the moon must be particularly light, be able to cope well with extreme and varied terrain and be so robust that there are no flat tires. Because such a thing cannot be remedied.
The result is a tire made of a metal mesh. It can cushion shocks and compensate for unevenness in the floor. That is why NASA scientists call the material what is known as a “shape memory alloy”. This special SMA tire does not have a tube, so it does not have to be inflated. SMA stands for “Airless Shape Memory Alloy”, the so-called shape memory metal. Thanks to the titanium alloy, it should even have better grip on the road than conventional rubber tires. So far, however, this type of tire has not been used on any current moon or Mars rover.
Bicycle tires from space technology
An innovative bicycle tire is now to be created from this special tire technology. NASA is working on this together with the “Smart Tire Company”. This start-up has only been around since 2020 and was founded by former engineers from the US space agency and tire manufacturer Goodyear. Their goal: to reduce the size of the SMA tires, which are relatively large, so that they are suitable for bicycles. A space technology should revolutionize our roads in the future. From spring 2022, the tires should be available for bicycles under the brand name “METL”. Subsequently, there will also be variants for cars and trucks.
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The tire inventors claim their SMA tires have 30 times the recoverable load compared to conventional steel. This is because they undergo phase changes at the molecular level when they are exposed to stress. Furthermore, the tires are made from durable materials. The researchers reduced the elastomer and rubber sidewalls and casings as much as possible in order to make the tires for bicycles as environmentally friendly as possible. Earl Cole, CEO of Smart Tire Company said, “The unique combination of these advanced materials combined with a next-generation environmentally friendly design results in a revolutionary product.”
Cooperation with e-scooter rental
Together with the mobility service provider “Spin”, a company that belongs to the automobile manufacturer Ford, the engineers and scientists are also working on an SMA tire for e-scooters. This cooperation is particularly obvious because vehicles that can be rented have to be particularly robust. After all, most users are not particularly careful with them. The Smart Tire Company may want to test the tires with Spin in an initial pilot project. “We are excited about the potential of METL tires and share our knowledge of the performance and special requirements of scooter tires with our colleagues at the Smart Tire Company in order to advance our mission of cleaner, safer and better mobility for everyone,” says James Berg , Head of Research and Development at Spin.
Bicycle manufacturer is interested
The bicycle manufacturer Felt from California has also expressed an interest in the new tires and made bicycles available to the Smart Tire Company for research. “The tire solution from Smart Tire Comapny shows an exciting new frontier and we are happy to be able to support you with our bikes in your tests,” explains Eric Sakalowsky, responsible for global marketing and e-commerce at Felt Bicycles. The manufacturer mainly develops bicycles for racing or amateur cyclists with ambitions to take part in competitions. That is why the technological focus at Felt is on increasing performance. Their aim is to build bicycles that are particularly easy to ride and support passionate cyclists in their top performance.
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