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No more flat tyres? These NASA-developed space wheels could help cut car particle pollution

Image shows a 'smart tyre' which was originally developed by NASA and is now being commercialised for terrestrial use by the SMART Tire company.
Image shows a 'smart tyre' which was originally developed by NASA and is now being commercialised for terrestrial use by the SMART Tire company. Copyright SMART tyre company
Copyright SMART tyre company
By Euronews with Reuters
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According to the SMART Tire Company, which is commercialising the product for terrestrial use, the tyres are airless, durable and will never go flat.

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A US firm is giving tyres designed by NASA for lunar rovers a new lease of life here on Earth.

The SMART Tire company says these airless tyres, which have a springy mesh design made from a shape memory alloy (SMA), are durable and never go flat, making them much more sustainable than regular rubber tyres.

"You're able to use this as a structural element in a tyre, so you don't need any pressurised air," Earl Cole, the company’s CEO and co-founder, said.

For this airless tyre, "punctures don't matter. It would never, ever get a flat so your tyre can last the life of your vehicle," he said.

Worn-out scrap tyres are becoming a major environmental concern because of their size and the chemicals they can release.

Adding to these concerns is the recent proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs) which are much heavier than traditional vehicles owing to their larger batteries and can cause tyres to wear down much faster.

"We feel that high-tech cars which are electric should have high-tech tyres because right now we're getting these high-tech vehicles using the same low-tech tyre technology from 100 years ago," said Cole.

Tyre-makers are under pressure from regulators to come up with solutions for the problem of tyre pollution. It's an issue that could even undermine the green credentials of electric vehicles.

The SMART Tire Company hopes their offering will reduce tyre pollution while tapping into an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

The company plans to put their first product on the market in Spring 2024: an airless SMART bicycle tyre.

On a separate project, they are working on the latest rovers for NASA's Lunar Terrain Vehicle programme, which is set to land and drive astronauts on the moon in 2028-2029 for the Artemis V mission.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Aisling Ní Chúláin

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