As part of a partnership with the American Space Agency, the start-up The SMART Tire Company has designed an airless and therefore puncture-proof bicycle tire. This tire incorporates technology developed by NASA for future Moon and Mars exploration vehicles.
An alloy of nickel and titanium
The conquest of space allowed many daily progress. These include, for example, GPS, the miniaturization of equipment, airbags, artificial hearts or even Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). In an article from March 17, 2021, The edge evokes a puncture-proof bicycle wheel resulting from a partnership with NASA. Developed by the start-up The SMART Tire Company, this tire is tubeless. “SMART” is an acronym for Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology, denoting a nitinol alliance (nickel-titanium) used in the manufacture of the famous puncture-proof tire.
This material has the advantage of being elastic like rubber while being resistant like titanium. In the event of deformation, the tire is able to regain all of its original shape through phase transitions at the molecular level. In addition, this NASA technology should be applied to future exploration vehicles on Mars and the Moon. Perhaps ESA’s future ExoMars rover will be equipped with it?
A tire for the life of the bike
Called Metl, the tire in question will be the first intended for the public. It will exist in several versions, namely road, mountain bike, gravel and electric bike. The shape memory frame will have a special coating of rubber and polyurethane. This gives the tire better resistance to that of conventional tires, depending on the intended use. The SMART Tire Company promises one tire for the life of the bike. According to the manufacturer, the user will never experience leaks, punctures or tears. Moreover, when the wear of the coating becomes significant, the tread will be retreaded, as is the case with the tires used by trucks.
The start-up has not yet given any video demonstration, but has delivered details and visuals. Its Metl prototype is a 700c road tire simulating a pressure of 100 PSI (6.8 bars). They tested it on a bicycle and compared it to a regular tire. According to the results, there is no noticeable difference when driving. In contrast, Metl is immune to pinching. It could then offer better traction by adopting a flatter profile, which could be of great interest to mountain bikers.
The SMART Tire Company has already mentioned a marketing from 2022, but gave no tariff. However, the company warns that it will be a high-end product. In addition, the start-up says it is working on other materials that are less expensive than nitinol in order to target different markets like that of automobiles or even those of heavy goods vehicles, military vehicles and aeronautics.