As millions of Americans tuned in to see NASA make another successful rover landing on Mars last February, a new startup was preparing to announce the terrestrial intentions of a core technology behind the future of the space exploration. Starting next year with the METL ™ tire, The SMART Tire Company intends to take over the $ 250 million global tire industry and end the era of flat tires and reduce rubber waste. using space-age tire technology designed for heavy vehicles.
Co-founder and CEO Earl Cole spoke about the motivation of SMART tires:
“After completing and winning a NASA Startup Studio program in 2020, my co-founder (Brian Yennie) and I formed a new company, The SMART Tire Company, to license NASA’s superelastic tire patents and continue our working with NASA through an agreement on space law.and marketing the technology to the consumer.Since the beginning of this project, we have been asked many times about “Reinventing the wheel” and we like to say that we really are not. Our tires will continue to be round and get from point A to point B. What we are doing is re-imagining the wheel and what our expectations are for such an important part of everyday life. Americans treat hundreds of millions of flat tires every year, or that 50 billion pounds of tire and microplastic waste pollute our environment annually? Is there no better way? We still need wheels.
Our upcoming METL bike tire uses the same shape memory alloy radial technology (SMART) materials that will be deployed on NASA’s Fetch Rover in 2026. In order to address the extreme requirements of Mars missions , these tires use an airless structure made of a special nickel-titanium alloy called “NiTinol”. Through a unique feature of this material, tires are able to rearrange their molecular structure in response to a mechanical stress, an almost magical property called “superelasticity”. Superelasticity at this scale is a major scientific breakthrough and a game changer for the tire industry. We see tires that can deform as much as we design them, in some cases up to the rim of the wheel, and that have 100% instant recovery. It’s almost hard to believe it when you see it.
Heather Oravec, University of Akron, Ph.D. associate professor of research at NASA Glenn
While driving without plans was an obvious attraction to technology, we soon discovered a huge secondary benefit: a tire with drastically less waste. Anyone who has rejected a used tire can probably imagine that it is not an eco-friendly product. We really had no idea of the huge problem of this problem at first. The the bigger the wheel, the worse it gets. From the use of petroleum products filled with carbon black (which gives color to the tires), to the discovery that 20-30% of all ocean plastic comes from tire runoff, to the great amount of tire waste produced each year, the problem is really overwhelming. Seeing thousands of tires burned to power makes a coal-fired power plant seem reasonable. Don’t be fooled by playgrounds or park benches made from recycled material. This is a huge environmental problem.
How does a SMART tire help the environment? Well, first of all, we still use rubber, a misconception if you’ve only seen NASA rover tires or images from our prototypes that only show the alloy alloy construction of the tires. The trick is to use less and waste less. Without the need for structural support, we can focus almost entirely on the tread, and without the air pressure contained, there is no need to add more and more material for heavier applications. Unlike conventional tires, we also don’t lose pressure (and therefore fuel efficiency) with every mile that passes. You are also much less likely to throw away the tire, when punctures and tears are much less serious problems. 70% of the current tire business comes from spare parts, while our SMART tires are built to last the life of your vehicle and perhaps beyond.
Our METL bicycle tires are scheduled for launch in 2022 and are designed and manufactured at our new STC Innovation Center in Akron, Ohio, alongside NASA, Bridgestone and Goodyear tires. We also have other major projects aligned with the electric, automotive and aerospace scooter industries. ”