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No More Flat Tires?

A new tire material is designed to withstand a tough environment—on Earth and beyond.
A white bicycle with shape memory tires leans against a bridge railing.
The SMART Tire Company
The SMART Tire Company says its new tires will make flats a thing of the past.

Anyone who has a bike or car knows how annoying it is to get a flat tire. Now, a U.S. company called The SMART Tire Company is selling an airless tire that it says will make flats a thing of the past. It’s designed for both terrestrial and extraterrestrial travelers.

The tire is based on a technology that was developed by NASA (the U.S. space agency) for use on its Mars rovers, the uncrewed vehicles that have been sent to explore the Red Planet. Rover wheels, which are aluminum cylinders containing springs, have worn down quickly because the Martian surface can be rough and the planet is extremely cold. So NASA created new wheels, covering them with a material called a shape memory alloy, which is strong but flexible. When the material is put under pressure, it collapses but then returns to its original shape.

© ESA/ATG Medialab
The new tire technology is meant to let Mars rovers roll over rocks and more.

The SMART Tire Company’s bicycle tire, called the METL tire, also uses this shape memory alloy. Because there’s no air pressure, the tire can’t go flat. The company claims that a METL tire will last for “the life of your vehicle.” 

The company says the bike tire is only the beginning. It envisions the technology being used for cars, jets, heavy machinery, and more. 

The video below shows what happened when the new tires were put to the test.

The SMART Tire Company

Fun Fact

© Buena Vista Images—Stone/Getty Images

Cycling is big in the Netherlands. The European country has a population of about 17.5 million—and nearly 23 million bicycles.

Old School Tires

Engraving of several people riding or falling off boneshakers in a large room.
© GBM Historical Images/Shutterstock.com
In the 1860s, the boneshaker was a cool new ride…but it wasn’t exactly comfortable!

The development of the METL tire isn’t the first time the bicycle has gotten a makeover. An early version of the bicycle called the velocipede, invented in the 1860s, was also known as “the boneshaker” because riding it could be rough. Its wheels were made with wood and iron, so they didn’t help cushion the rider at all.

After 10 years or so, the velocipede was replaced by the “ordinary” bicycle. With its rubber tires, this new two-wheeler was a big improvement.

What’s Out There?

A green alien with a large head sits on a planet’s surface and look out at space.
© MediaProduction—Creatas Video/Getty Images

While rovers explore Mars, powerful telescopes are peering deep into space. Using these instruments, scientists have detected planets where conditions make life possible.

How likely is it that aliens exist? Learn more at Britannica!

WORD OF THE DAY

breakthrough

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:
: a sudden increase in knowledge, understanding, etc. : an important discovery that happens after trying for a long time to understand or explain something
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