NASA has reinvented the wheel with a material that remembers shape
Made for Mars, the wheel made of nickel-titanium alloy can change shape as needed
NASA has been working on its Mars mission for a while now. And one thing they have learned so far is that Mars destroys tires. The surface of the red planet is so rough that the tires we use on Earth are no match for it. So, to deal with that issue, NASA has created a wheel that can change shape and has a memory.
The new rover tires are made from a nickel-titanium alloy. This alloy can change form and can also return to its original shape. It is also super-elastic and that is what helps it 'remember' its original shape.
As seen in the vide on the NASA site, these shape-memory alloy tires are airless and have been developed at NASA's Glenn Research Centre. These tires can support heavy load and are adaptable to harsh terrains. The tire consists of hundreds of metal tires woven together to form a flexible mesh. This mesh acts like a memory foam (like we have on our mattresses) and rearranges its atomic structure to easily roll over any ground.
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It can adapt easily to both sand and rock and rearrange itself to move as required. In the process the tire is not damaged since the material itself changes shape to accommodate any other material it rolls over, there is no blunt force, abrasion or friction - things that can otherwise damage a tire.
NASA plans to use this tire to help with space mobility and who knows, it might see itself become tires on some vehicles on Earth in the future.