Nasa’s new ‘Superelastic Tyre’ is reinventing the wheel

The innovative minds at Nasa’s Glenn Research Centre developed a tyre that could reinvent the wheel. The “Superelastic Tyres” are simple in design but can handle difficult terrains. In the mid-2000s, Nasa Glenn Research Centre and Goodyear developed the “Spring Tyre,” a non-pneumatic tyre made of several hundred coiled steels. It has the ability to support heavy loads while conforming to different terrains, even on rough terrain and sand. However, while the “Spring Tyre” performed admirably during testing, the steel wires deformed when they rolled over a simulation of the Martian terrain.
They further developed the “Spring Tyres” and replaced the steel wires with a shape memory alloy, which could handle 30 times the deformation without incurring permanent deformation, a replacement that led to the “Superelastic Tyres.” Just like with the “Spring Tires,” one looks at the “Superelastic Tyres” and will know that it’s entirely different from the tires that are known and used in vehicles every single day. The “Superelastic Tyres” look oddly like chainmail armour and in some ways, they act like it too because the tires’ non-pneumatic design allows it to go through rough terrain without the threat of being punctured.
As mentioned, the tires are made of nickel titanium, a shape memory alloy that is capable of enduring reversible significant strain. Compared to commonly used elastic materials, which can only bear 0.3 up to 0.5 per cent of strain before yielding, the new design can handle up to 10 per cent of strain, making it practically impervious to deformation. The new tires are safe to use because they cannot be punctured, instead, they are strong and robust for use on different terrains.