NASA has developed a super-elastic tire that may prove a viable alternative to the pneumatic tire. Created with future Mars missions in mind, the tires could also be used on Earth. The new tire is an evolution of the Apollo lunar ones and the spring tire invented by NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Goodyear.
The NASA researchers have changed typical elastic pneumatic materials into memory alloys that are capable of undergoing significant reversible strain. This enables it to withstand more deformation than any other non-pneumatic tire, while providing enhanced control and increased design versatility.
“For instance, the super-elastic tire can be made to soften with increased deflection, reducing the amount of energy transferred to the vehicle during high-reformative events,” a statement from the NASA Glenn Research Center said. “In addition, the use of shape memory alloys in the form of radial stiffeners, as opposed to springs, provides even more load-carrying potential and improved design flexibility. This type of compliant tire would allow for increased travel speeds in off-road applications.”