Goodyear and NASA honoured for innovative "spring" tyre

12 November 2010

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Goodyear have been honoured with an R&D 100 Award for an airless tyre capable of transporting large, long-range vehicles across thesurface of celestial bodies such as the moon or Mars. The 44th Annual R&D 100 Awards ceremony, billed as the “Oscars of Innovation”, was on November 11 in Orlando, Florida.

The tyre, developed last year, is constructed out of 800 load bearing springs. It is designed to carry much heavier vehicles over much greater distances than the wire mesh tyre (which Goodyear alsocontributed to) that was previously used on the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). The new tyre could allow for broader exploration and the eventual development and maintenance of planetary outposts. It might also have applications on Earth.

According to Vivake Asnani, principal investigator for the project at NASA’s Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland, the tyre being recognized for an R&D 100 Award had to meet a significant change inrequirements that required innovation.

“With the combined requirements of increased load and life, we needed to make a fundamental change to the original moon tyre,” he said. “What the Goodyear-NASA team developed is an innovative, yet simple network of interwoven springs that does the job. The tyre design seems almost obvious in retrospect, as most good inventions do."

The Spring Tyre was installed last year on NASA’s Lunar Electric Rover test vehicle and put through its paces at the “Rock Yard” at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston where it performed successfully.“

This tyre is extremely durable and extremely energy efficient,” noted Jim Benzing, Goodyear’s lead innovator on the project. “The spring design contours to the surface on which it’s driven to provide traction. But all of the energy used to deform the tyre is returned when the springs rebound. It doesn’tgenerate heat like a normal tyre.”

According to Goodyear engineers, development of the original Apollo lunar mission tyres and the newSpring Tyre were driven by the fact that traditional rubber, pneumatic (air-filled) tyres used on Earth, have little utility on the moon. This is because rubber properties vary significantly between the extreme cold and hot temperatures experienced in the shaded and directly sunlit areas of the moon.Furthermore, unfiltered solar radiation degrades rubber, and pneumatic tyres pose an unacceptable risk of deflation.

According to Asnani, the Spring Tyre does not have a “single point failure mode. What that means,” he said, “is that a hard impact that might cause a pneumatic tyre to puncture and deflate would onlydamage one of the 800 load bearing springs. Along with having this ultra-redundant characteristic, the tyre has a combination of overall stiffness yet flexibility that allows off-road vehicles to travel fast overrough terrain with relatively little motion being transferred to the vehicle.”

 

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Media contact: James Peate Goodyear & Dunlop Tyres Communications Manager Phone: 03 8416 7319

Email: james_peate@goodyear.com

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