Feeling the wind in your hair, the sun on your face and … damn it, the puncture. The feeling that I pushed my bike to the house, and then returned home in the dark and was in trouble because of going out too late. Then one day a friend with puncture protection tires appeared on his bike. Solid rubber! We thought this was fantastic – until we rode on them. They were supposed to be named SHU tires. Firm, heavy and relentless. As much as we were attracted to the idea that there were no stings, they just didn’t take off.
In the following years, different solutions were presented. Kevlar inserts; foam tires, thick tubes; tubeless tires; self-sealing fluids … but breakthroughs still existed. Show me a cyclist without a CO2 bottle and spare tubes, and I’ll show you a cyclist unprepared for reality. Back to my punctures. NASA needed a tire that could deform when it ran over objects, just like a pneumatic tire, but they didn’t want an air-filled tire. Enter NiTinol + a combination of nickel and titanium. The solid molecular structure allows the rubber to bend and deform, and then returns to its original shape. NiTinol + is in a class known as Shape Memory Alloys (SMA). Conventional materials, such as steel springs, can be subjected to stresses of up to 0.5 percent before undergoing permanent deformation. SMAs can be distorted up to 10 percent before the deformation is permanent.
Imagine that the whole mission was interrupted because the rover ran over a sharp rock! So, even if you don’t care too much about the data collected by five rovers on Mars, it’s likely that you already benefit from some technology that NASA has developed for these missions. It takes care of the rovers – but what’s down here on earth? SMART Tire (sorry for the American spelling) was created with the blessing of NASA to create tires for earth vehicles using this technology.
Imagine that the whole mission was interrupted because the rover ran over a sharp rock! For all those frustrated cyclists comes a savior in the form of NASA. You see, NASA had to deal with this problem when they first started planning their rover missions in locations where it was difficult to fix the breakthrough – like Mars.
Metal rubbers on bitumen sound like a recipe for broken collarbones, so the metal will be coated with a long-lasting rubber tread, polyurethane. When the tire wears out, forget about throwing. The structural integrity of the tire will remain, so you can tread on it again. Initial prices can be a problem. These will be top quality tires and will cost a premium price – at least initially. As with many new products, higher volume and better production processes will result in lower prices. The first product to produce? A series of bicycle tires. Puncture-resistant like the solid rubber tires of my youth, but ones that will ride like pneumatic tires and that will only add a minimum weight to the wheel. In fact, if you remove the weight of the components you need to fix the inevitable flat tire, the total weight of your bike will be approximately the same.
Matthew Dickerson is a technologist and futurist and the founder of several technological start-ups. Finally, maybe I have my desire to take a ride and not have to worry about that long walk home. Tell me if you can remember the names of the five Mars rovers at [email protected]
News emphasizes space
- Title: Tech Talk | Puncture-resistant tires inspired by a mission to Mars, the rescuer of a cyclist An islander
- Check out all the news and articles from the space news update.