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Metl .. a bicycle tire that uses NASA hump-humping technology

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A startup called Smart is using an airless tire technology made of an SMA shape memory mixture, originally created to make the Lunar and Martian spacecraft more flexible in the future, for a bike tire called Metl.

For more than 50 years, NASA has been directing advanced technology into everyday products, and space agency materials have crept into everything from flexible foam mattresses to digital camera and smartphone image sensors.

It was only a matter of time before advanced tire technology was added to the long list of so-called NASA spinoffs.

Founded in 2020, the startup SMART has partnered with NASA through a space law agreement, and is part of the agency’s official startup program aimed at commercializing some of its innovations.

The Metl framework is the first fruit of the startup’s work with NASA’s Glenn Research Center, where NASA engineers for the first time developed a so-called shape memory mixture (SMA) technology.

SMA allows for a frame made entirely of threaded springs, which do not require inflation, are thus immune to punctures, are able to provide equivalent or better traction when compared to inflatable rubber tires, and even some built-in shock absorbing capabilities.

The main development was the creation of a mixture that can return to shape at the molecular level, meaning that it can deform to adapt to uneven terrain, including obstacles such as gravel and potholes, and return to shape without losing structural integrity over time.

SMART has worked with the Glenn Research Center to apply the benefits of SMA to the consumer market, and is targeting the bike market first with Metl tires, which are set to become available to the general public by early next year.

SMART then intends to continue bringing SMA tires to the automotive and commercial vehicle industries as well.

SMART has a partnership with Ford-owned Spin, a bike and scooter ride-sharing company focused on new small mobility models.

SMART technology has the potential to make flat or inflatable tires a thing of the past while reducing cost and waste in the long run by eliminating the need for rubber tires, which must be replaced frequently and can pose a risk to passengers or drivers when used without adequate pressure.

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