Chainmail Armor Inspires New NASA Rover Wheel Design
Ron Perillo / 2 years ago
NASA is usually associated with forward thinking ideas. Sometimes however, the best ideas come from looking into the past. For example their latest idea for a rover tire design took inspiration from a medieval chainmail armor. Innovation in this front is essential for future rover missions. As we have witnessed, even wheels carved of solid aluminium blocks cannot withstand the harsh Martian terrain for years. The rover’s tires not only have to navigate difficult terrain, it must also be supremely durable.
The new NASA design uses principals of chainmail armor and can withstand more deformation than any other non-pneumatic tire. Although a solid piece of metal is durable, it eventually will wear out due to the sheer number of repeated navigation over rocky terrain. So this new “Superelastic” tire from NASA has some flexibility the other rover tires do not have. This allows the tire to absorb some impact and have some give when moving around. Due to its construction, it is still very difficult to damage while being lightweight, heat and debris resistant. The material itself is made of Nickel-Titanium alloy. This combination allows room for up to 10 percent deformation without losing shape.
The chainmail design also provides substantial grip and traction. Plus, there are no fears of puncture failure over conventional pneumatic tires. NASA also says that the due to the alloy’s properties, it could also serve other function for space travel besides as a rover wheel. Other applications include as a heat-shield for orbiting spacecraft since it can withstand high temperatures.
Shape Memory Alloy Tire Video