How NASA Tech Could Revolutionize the Humble Bicycle Tire
The humble bicycle tire could be about to undergo a dramatic transformation after a California-based startup this week unveiled a durable space-age tire that never goes flat.
Called METL, the design of the next-generation bicycle tire is based on technology developed by NASA that is aimed at enhancing the resilience of future lunar and Martian rovers.
The SMART (Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology) Tire Company was formed last year with the central aim of commercializing a new category of airless tire invented for future space missions.
Made from a nickel-titanium alloy called NiTinol+, SMART describes its new tire as a “light, flexible, space-age metal that never goes flat, but still rides smooth.” It believes the material can become a permanent part of future bicycles, with design variations making it suitable for other kinds of vehicles, too.
The special shape-memory material gives the tire the ability to expand, contract, bend, or unbend at a rapid rate before quickly regaining its original shape. Even better, there’s no prospect of a puncture, and you’ll never have to inflate it.
Made in gold, silver, and metallic blue, the METL bike tire features a futuristic look and feel.
“Cyclists will not be able to wait to get their hands on these very cool-looking, space-age METL tires,” Earl Cole, CEO of SMART, said in a release. “The unique combination of these advanced materials, coupled with a next generation, eco-friendly design make for a revolutionary product.”
“Shape memory alloys look extremely promising in revolutionizing the entire terrestrial tire industry,” said NASA engineer Santo Padula, adding, “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Indeed, SMART says it’s intent on taking on the $250 billion global tire market with the aim of becoming the next great American tire company, “bringing smarter and cleaner solutions to the future of transportation.”
SMART’s METL tire comes out of a partnership with NASA’s Glenn Research Center as part of an initiative geared toward commercializing some of the space agency’s innovations.