“Survivor” winner Earl Cole and Brian Yennie presented a unique idea to “Shark Tank”: bring NASA’s space rover tires to earth vehicles. This is the first consumer application of NASA’s eco-friendly, airless shape memory alloy tire technology.
The SMART Tire Company has teamed with NASA Glenn Research Center inventors to create shape memory alloy (SMA) tires for public use on bikes and other vehicles. NASA created this tire technology for use on the lunar and Mars rover missions. SMART Tires will first be used as tires for bicycles before expanding to use for the auto and aerospace industries.
These tires are more than airless metal mesh: they undergo phase transitions at the molecular level under strain. According to SMART Tires, “SMAs are unlike any other material, exhibiting 30 times the recoverable strain of ordinary steel. What’s more, SMART’s METL bike tires will never go flat and utilize long-lasting materials that reduce rubber waste.”
Believe it or not, the tire industry is a $250 billion industry. SMART Tires are super-elastic, durable and made from a mesh of nickel titanium that never goes flat, but flexes under pressure from uneven terrain. NASA created these tires to meet the challenges of extreme conditions: -100 degrees Celsius, bumpy terrain with no roads and when there isn’t a chance to change a tire if you get a flat. The resulting tires can be used for high-performance off-road bikes, delivery and rescue vehicles and more.
Why metal? The alloy used in SMART Tires bends like rubber. A patented load-bearing design makes optimal use of so-called memory alloys, which can expand, contract, bend or unbend at roughly the same speed as rubber.
Additionally, the tires regain 100% of their original shape through phase changes at the molecular level. Using this type of tire would reduce waste from replacing old tires, which are one of the bulkiest forms of garbage to dispose of. It also reduces use of petroleum and reduces manufacturing pollution, carbon emissions and waste.
As for pricing, the METL bike tires will be $100 to $150 at launch, or the equivalent of a high-end bike wheel set or individual automotive tire. You can sign up on the wait list to order METL airless tires.
Images via SMART Tire Company