Future Mars rovers or moon buggies might be riding the wings of Goodyear spring-based tires. This high-tech tire just won a 2010 R&D 100 award, also known as the “Oscar of Innovation,” from the editors of R&D magazine.
The tire was invented last year in a joint effort between NASA and Goodyear, and was tested out on NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover at the Rock Yard at the Johnson Space Center. The spring tire builds upon previous versions of the moon tire, and the improvements enable it to take larger (up to 10 times) rovers up to 100 times further, NASA scientists explained to Gizmag:
“With the combined requirements of increased load and life, we needed to make a fundamental change to the original moon tire,” said Vivake Asnani, principal investigator for the project at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland. “What the Goodyear-NASA team developed is an innovative, yet simple network of interwoven springs that does the job. The tire design seems almost obvious in retrospect, as most good inventions do.”
The tire is made up of 800 helical springs, which simulate the flexibility of an air-filled tire. Because there are so many springs, the tire can’t completely fail all at once, like a punctured air-filled tire would, Asnani said in the Goodyear press release:
When other Albertans saw landfill fodder, 17-year-old Kyle Schole saw electricity. His project, “Microbial Degredation of Vehicle Tires,” which uses a strain of bacteria to harness energy from decomposing rubber tires, hasn’t yet hit the journal circuit. But it has won the farm-raised teenager a gold-prize at his national science fair.
Schole devised his plan while driving past an Alberta tire recycling plant. Though his town was already transforming tires into speed bumps and surfacing, he wanted to pop those wheelies into something more. He decided to make a few calls, and chatted up a few microbiologists from Canada, Scotland, and Australia. He then had to find the perfect rubber-munching bacteria.
His farm wasn’t equipped to deal with biohazardous materials so he spent his summer in labs at the Westlock Health Care Centre. He estimates that the project took him over 400 hours, but in the end he successfully created a microbial fuel cell that converts chemical energy released during the tire’s microbial decomposition into electricity. For his efforts, he won a $6,000 cash prize and a $10,000 scholarship to the Canadian university of his choice.
The “science fair maniac” told the The Edmonton Journal:
“I’m a very curious guy–whether it’s tinkering on the farm with my dad or working on science projects,” said Schole. “So I’m often thinking, ‘What would be a neat thing to test and improve on?'”
For more warm-fuzzies, see the CTV video coverage, with interview.
DISCOVER: Science Fair for a Better Planet
Discoblog: It’s In the Bag! Teenager Wins Science Fair, Solves Massive Environmental Problem
The Loom: Microbial Art
The Loom: I For One Welcome Our Microbial Overlords
Image: flickr/Mykl Roventine