Bicycles

NASA's shape memory airless tire tech makes its way onto bicycles

NASA's shape memory airless ti...
The Smart Tire Company's Metl tires are the first consumer application of NASA's airless shape memory ally tire technology
The Smart Tire Company's Metl tires are the first consumer application of NASA's airless shape memory ally tire technology
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The Metl airless bicycle tires will be made in gold, silver and metallic blue, though there is no word yet on cost
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The Metl airless bicycle tires will be made in gold, silver and metallic blue, though there is no word yet on cost
The Smart Tire Company's Metl tires are the first consumer application of NASA's airless shape memory ally tire technology
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The Smart Tire Company's Metl tires are the first consumer application of NASA's airless shape memory ally tire technology

An advanced tire technology developed by NASA for use on planetary rovers could be coming to a bike lane near you, with startup the Smart Tire Company leveraging the technology to introduce an airless alloy tire to the world of cycling. With the elasticity of rubber and the strength of titanium, these Metl tires promise a number of practical benefits, and mightn't be limited to just bicycles for long.

The fancy tires were developed in partnership with NASA and are the first consumer-oriented application of its airless shape memory alloy (SMA) tire technology. In 2017, we looked at an example of this from NASA that could be used to help robust rovers endure difficult terrain on other planets, with engineers developing a nickel-titanium alloy mesh wheel that could be deformed right down to the axle and then snap back to its original shape.

The team behind Metl has leveraged this alloy's ability to undergo phase transitions under strain to produce a next-gen bike tire that never needs inflating. Further to eliminating the dangers of pesky punctures, these shape memory wheels offer 30 times the recoverable strain of steel and should be long-lasting, possibly helping avoid the mountains of rubber waste generated by typical bicycle tires.

The Metl airless bicycle tires will be made in gold, silver and metallic blue, though there is no word yet on cost
The Metl airless bicycle tires will be made in gold, silver and metallic blue, though there is no word yet on cost

“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, CEO of The Smart Tire Company. “The unique combination of these advanced materials, coupled with a next generation, eco-friendly design make for a revolutionary product.”

The tires will be made in gold, silver and metallic blue, and while there is no word yet on cost, they are expected to hit the market in 2022. The Smart Tire Company is also working with Ford-owned mobility company Spin to develop similar tires for electric scooters, and even makes mention of tackling the auto industry some time down the track.

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

Source: Smart Tire Company

14 comments
Don Martin
A true non-flat tire would be a dream come true. Am wondering how this design fares in snow and mud.
michael_dowling
Without rubber,how does it handle slippery conditions,like wet snow or rain slicked asphalt?
paul314
That looks really cool, but also looks as if it would rapidly collect a bunch of grit and debris inside it.
Jack Elizabeth Ralston
As a bicycle and motorcycle rider, a very significant question is how do these things do cranked over in a turn? While the promise of forever tires is huge, if I skittle every time I lean into a turn on asphalt or brake hard, they're just expensive gimmicks.
paleochocolate
maybe you can cover it in rubber to protect the wire mesh. That way you can retread the surface as needed and still have it not need inflation
PAV
But how does the ride feel?
Douglas Rogers
Looks like it would work better replacing the air in a regular tire. Bike tires are a very small source of land fill.
christopher
It looks very slippery, and like it's going to ingest all pebbles, sand, and water and fling it up your back and into your face as you ride...
charles02
So, what does one do when the 'tread' wears out? I'm lucky to get 400 miles out of the rear tire on my mountain bike...
Albert L
You know I bet this technology would be great to insert into tubes and tubeless tires now so we would still have the same handling characteristics but would have flat protection so the metal would kick in when the tire loses so many pounds per square inch of air pressure. I hope the manufacturer reads this. They could get it on the market for all kinds of vehicles right away.