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Scientists working on adaptive tyres

By FaezClutchless on 03 May 2012

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Every tyre on the market today is a compromise. If you want something that sticks to the ground in warm and dry conditions, there are many tyres for you to choose but donít drive too fast on wet, rainy days or during winter (I know, this doesnít apply in our tropical climate).

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Alternatively, if you want to go off-road and tackle the sand and muddy conditions; yes, there are suitable tyres for that application. Just as long as you donít carry too much speed into a corner on the tarmac and donít expect a quiet highway ride.

Todayís tyres may offer a blend of ride quality and handling across a variety of conditions but they are still sub-optimal for winter conditions, spirited driving and off-road usage. An ideal tyre is something that could automatically adapt its configuration to optimise itself for any condition.

If that sounds like the stuff you find in science fiction movies or story books, then donít tell that to German research scientist Detlef Riemer who heads a team of researchers in the University of Applied Sciences in Leipzig, Germany. Riemer and his team are working on adaptive tyres. These tyres adjust themselves for optimum grip and fuel efficiency regardless of terrain and weather.

Sensors are embedded into the tyres and these sensors recognise changes in terrain and also environmental conditions. Actuators in the tyreís tread can then reconfigure the treadís geometry to optimise grip for condition changes. Materials used should work in harmony to produce the desired results and they include flexible actuators, piezo-ceramic actuators, shape memory alloys and other ďsmartĒ materials.

Donít expect to see these adaptive tyres on your ride soon as it is still in the conceptual stage and such technology would take years before it is ready for commercial use, assuming it meets safety and quality standards.

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