PORTLAND, Ore. Airless tires could reinvent the wheel for military vehicles by preventing the enemy from shooting out tires. In Iraq, for instance, a leading cause of casualties has been stranded Humvees peppered with small arms fire after roadside bombs blew out their tires.
Resilient Technologies LLC (Madison, Wis.), together with the University of Wisconsin's Madison Polymer Engineering Center, are developing an airless tire to solve the problem with a four-year, $18-million grant from the Pentagon.
"Developing tires that will allow vehicles to continue to roll no matter what is thrown at them--even roadside bombs--is a real priority for the military and could be the difference between life and death for our troops in the field," said Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.) in a statement. Obey, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, reportedly helped Resilient get the grant from the Defense Department.
After two years of testing, Resilient Technologies recently began field trials of its honeycomb polymer tire at a National Guard facility in Wausau, Wis., where Humvees undergoing both on- and off-road tests. Resilient's honeycomb design is also being measured against Michelin's experimental Tweel design that uses polyurethane spokes.
Resilient claims that its six-sided honeycombs more accurately maintain the road feel of normal pneumatic tires, compared to spokes. It also said the design corrects problems with previous designs such as road noise and heat generation during driving. Final testing will be performed with an Akron Standard flywheel, which can simulate the wear and tear of hundreds of thousands of miles.
If testing is successful, Resilient also plans to market the airless tire for other applications such as mining, farm and construction equipment and all-terrain vehicles. Eventually, passenger vehicles could use the airless tire.