While road bikers never got on too well with the idea of solid tyres, perhaps they could be convinced to try these new airless metal tires made from technology developed by NASA. Start-up company SMART Tire Company says that the upcoming METL bike tyres use the same airless shape memory (SMA) technology that NASA used for the Mars Rover to protect its tyres on the harsh surface of the Red Planet. SMART Tire Company claims that the tyres offer a smooth ride despite being made of light and flexible metals.
The METL tyre, made with advanced materials known as NiTinol+, promises to be as elastic as rubber while being as strong as titanium. Put simply, the tyres maintain perfect shape memory without ever going flat, eliminating the need to repair or replace tyres and tubes. The SMART Tire Company says the METL tyres could transform even the most everyday of bike rides by turning the tyres into a permanent piece of your bike, rather than something that has to be removed and maintained regularly.
The original NASA-designed Spuerelastic Tire is an airless tire. There is no risk of the tyre ever getting punctured or running under-inflated. This is essential for the Mars rover as it’s not like someone can just go to Mars and replace a flat tyre.
The SMART Tire Company – short for Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology, has brought the space-age technology down to Earth with new applications. The company aims to revolutionize the tyre industry with new ways of thinking for all vehicles. Not just bikes, but scooters, cars, trucks, and even aircraft.
The new METL tyre comes with a patented load-bearing design to take advantage of the unique properties of the alloys used by NASA. The brand explains that the special metals can contract and expand and bend or unbend quickly like rubber and with enough force to move heavy objects. The tyre will always regain its original shape no matter how deformed it might get thanks to phase transitions occurring on the molecular level.
The company also explains that the technology also addresses some of the issues present in pneumatic tyres, such as less rubber, lower weight, higher load not defined by the tyre pressure, no more flats, and a huge reduction in waste.
METL tyres are incredibly eco-friendly and made with long-lasting materials. The company said it was important to create a long-lasting tyre to create a more positive and socially-conscious carbon footprint for the company and riders alike.
These tyres aren’t the first airless tyres to come along and they likely won’t be the last. Bridgestone has developed a concept for airless tyres. Created for bicycles and motor vehicles, Bridgestone originally planned to release the tyres in 2019 but this never happened. It’s unknown what the situation is with them now.
The SMART Tire Company says METL tyres will hit the shelves in 2022. Perhaps the Bridgestone tyres will also have released by then.