hen John Boyd Dunlop and Robert Thomson—working independently—invented the pneumatic tire, they set in motion the evolution of one of the most innovative research areas in automotive sciences—tire technology. Today, researchers around the world continue to push the boundaries of possibility with tires in the areas of design, construction, manufacture and safety.
German tire giant Continental Tires and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology are collaborating on the development of tires made from the roots of the humble dandelion. Their research has revealed the superior economic viability of extracting rubber from dandelion roots compared to the traditional rubber tapping process and is believed to be environmentally responsible by rejuvenating fallow lands.
As a throwback to the days before the development of the pneumatic tire, airless tires apply the hub and spoke principle where the spokes are made from flexible polyurethane and connected to a central hub. Originally developed by French tire maker Michelin, the 2005 prototype has been adapted to industrial use in low-speed vehicles on account of the intense heat and noise produced by their use.
The Michelin XDA5 truck tires feature a “regenerating” tread that could be soon seen on passenger vehicles. The new tire has a second tread layer that is revealed when the old tread has worn out. The company offers a 30 percent extension on tire life and 10 percent wider tread for improved stability and handling. While true regenerating tires remain in the realms of science fiction, Michelin’s layered tread tires are the first step in the evolution of newer tire technologies.
Imagine a tire that inflates itself when its pressure falls below a specified limit. Intelligent tires have been used in military Hummers and other operation-sensitive heavy machines. These tires rely on a network of sensors that monitor and relay tire pressures back to an electronic control and processing unit that triggers a pressurized air source to re-inflate the tire to its optimum pressure. When mounted on passenger vehicles, the Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS) is expected to be adaptable to changing tire pressures at higher speeds and manual control of pressures from the cabin.
Work tires can increase fuel consumption and pose a significant safety risk to all vehicles, with the risks becoming apparent in high-speed cars, commercial trucks, and heavy industrial vehicles. Designed by Gao Fenglin & Zhou Buyi, the Discolor Tyre is a novel concept that changes the color of a tire after a preset amount of wear. As the tire wears out, bright orange rubber is revealed, indicating the need for a fresh set.
Finally, Korean tire giant Hankook has developed and redesigned a Bridgestone concept that integrates a tire and the wheel into a single unit. The new product is a recyclable non-pneumatic tire and wheel that is expected to improve performance and fuel efficiency.
When John Boyd Dunlop and Robert Thomson—working independently—invented the pneumatic tire, they set in motion the evolution of one of the most innovative research areas in automotive sciences—tire technology. Today, researchers around the world continue to push the boundaries of possibility with tires in the areas of design, construction, manufacture and safety.
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