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From Mars to Earth: Nasa’s Airless Tire Technology Reaches Everyday Bikes

Dario Tameu

Dario Tameu, Writer
@uxconnections

In collaboration with the American space agency, SMART is developing the first consumer application of NASA‘s airless shape memory alloy (SMA) to create an innovative and futuristic bicycle tire that won’t ever go flat.

This space-age tire transforms the way vehicles perform on and off the road, presenting new transportation possibilities around the globe.

Originally developed by NASA, these superelastic tires are airless, durable and will never go flat. Made from a special advanced material, NiTinol+ (nickel-titanium), a shape memory alloy (SMA) that’s elastic like rubber, yet strong like titanium.

The SMART Tire has a patented load-bearing design that takes advantage of the unique properties of shape memory alloys. These special metals can expand, contract, bend or unbend at a very rapid rate (like rubber) and with so much force that they can move heavy objects. Even with extreme deformation, the tire regains 100% of its shape through phase transitions at the molecular level.

“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,” says Earl Cole, former ​survivor​ champion and CEO of the SMART tire company. “The unique combination of these advanced materials, coupled with a next-generation, eco-friendly design makes for a revolutionary product.”

“Shape memory alloys look extremely promising in revolutionizing the entire terrestrial tire industry,” says Santo Padula, PhD, materials science engineer at NASA, “and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Working alongside Felt Bicycles, who provided bikes for research and development, SMART intends to establish METL™ tires as the premier high-tech component for modern cyclists across road, gravel, mountain and e-bike applications. the company is also working with micromobility provider, ​Spin​, to develop SMA tires for e-scooters.

A further positive aspect of this technology is its potential contribution to the environment. The tires in fact take on some of the most frequent and damaging issues regarding the tire industry.

Over a billion tires per year reach their end-of-life due to wear and tear. More than half are burned for fuel, and billions of pounds of waste go into landfills. Moreover, tires are the source of 20-30% of all ocean microplastics. Developing a long-lasting tire for the circular economy is a key goal, to make a positive, more socially conscious global footprint.

The SMART Tire Company is further developing this space-age, tire technology and will be making it available to the world. METL™ tires will reach consumer bicycles in early 2022.

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