(Natural News) Titanium tires purported to be “nearly indestructible” have been attached to rovers bound for the moon and Mars. However, a company is bringing these space-age tires back to Earth for a more everyday purpose – that is, attached to bicycles. The SMART Tire Company is the firm behind this endeavor, partnering with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists for this goal.
The SMART Tire Company has adapted the federal space agency’s “smart memory alloy” (SMA) tire technology for bicycles. The result is a revolutionary product called Martensite Elasticized Tubular Loading (METL) tires, which boast of a rubber-like tread for extra traction. According to the firm, METL bicycle tires that use the technology will never go flat or need air.
“Cyclists will not be able to wait to get their hands on these very cool-looking, space-age METL tires that don’t go flat,” SMART Tire Company Founder Earl Cole remarked. The Survivor: Fiji winner turned entrepreneur added: “The unique combination of these advanced materials, coupled with a next-generation, eco-friendly design make for a revolutionary product.” Cole established The SMART Tire Company in 2020 with blockchain engineer Brian Yennie.
The secret behind the SMA tire’s advantage over its rubber counterparts is its main material. It is comprised of interconnected springs made from a lightweight nickel-titanium alloy called nitinol. This elastic material returns to its original shape at the molecular level without losing structural integrity. The SMA tires made from nitinol also possess better traction than rubber tires and come with built-in shock-absorbing capabilities.
The SMART team collaborated with inventors Santo Padula and Colin Creager to adapt the technology for public use. Padula elaborated on the advantages of the new METL tires that use SMA technology. “Thanks to their ability to undergo phase transitions at the molecular level under strain, SMAs are unlike any other material, exhibiting thirty times the recoverable strain of ordinary steel,” the materials science engineer said.
The NASA Glenn Research Center scientist continued: “Shape memory alloys look extremely promising in revolutionizing the entire terrestrial tire industry – and that’s just the top of the iceberg.”
SMA tires are set to roll in from rocky space terrains to paved Earth roads
California manufacturer Felt Bicycles provided the bicycles for testing out the space-age wheels. Despite their purported benefits, the smart metal alloy METL tires have two disadvantages: They are much heavier than traditional rubber tires and their open-weave structure can catch debris and trap them inside. To solve these problems, the tires are finished with a rubber-like tread for added traction. This lets them ride over dirt, pavement and other terrains.
The tires will still need maintenance the moment the tread wears out. But compared to regularly replacing a set of tires, reapplying the tread on the METL tires is much cheaper.
The SMART Tire Company is also working with bicycle and scooter sharing company Spin, which is owned by the Ford Motor Company, to develop SMA tires for electric scooters. Spin R&D Manager James Berg commented: “We are excited about the potential of METL, and we are sharing our knowledge about scooter tire performance and specifications with The SMART Tire Company to help advance our mission to create cleaner, safer and better transportation for all.
A tire that does not give out from wear and tear, leaks and punctures such as the METL tire could have a large impact on the global automotive market. True enough, there are now plans to adapt SMA tire technology for automobiles and other wheeled vehicles. (Related: Finally, a good use for soybean oil: Goodyear tires are stronger, more durable when made with soy.)
Prior to The SMART Tire Company’s product, French tire giant Michelin also developed a technology for airless tires. The French firm’s Uptis (unique puncture-proof tire system) tire was created in partnership with General Motors (GM). Uptis creators claimed the zero-maintenance tire can replicate the performance of current rubber tires on the market – with the added bonuses of lasting longer, costing lower and being more environmentally-friendly. (Related: New tires made from orange peel oil instead of petroleum.)
The Uptis tire is made from rubber mixed with high-strength, resin-embedded fiberglass wrapped around an aluminum wheel. A series of spokes replaces the usual sidewall of the tire and serves to hold the car’s weight. GM and Michelin said that with this new design, drivers need not worry about tire punctures and blow-outs.
Furthermore, the existing Uptis wheel can simply be replaced with a new tread once it wears out. This prevents the need for fitting an entirely new tire – cutting down on cost, materials and time for both manufacturer and consumer, Michelin said. According to the company, car owners can expect the first Uptis tires on the market by 2025.
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