Why a tyre made from moss could help prevent climate change
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Most drivers will agree that tyres are not the most exciting aspect of car ownership but Goodyear may have come up with an antidote to that way of thinking, with the Oxygene concept.
A living, breathing tyre of the future, the Oxygene converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, can communicate with the world around it and is fully recyclable.
The company’s director of consumer tyre technology, Percy LeMaire, said: “We use concepts like this so our engineers can express ideas which may be used to create future generations of tyres.”
Unlike a conventional tyre, the Oxygene is not inflated with air but instead, explains LeMaire, “is a solid structure with flexible spokes that give compliance and durability at the same time”.
The more radical aspect of the Oxygene’s design, however, is that the tyre contains living moss. Like any other plant, the moss sustains itself through photosynthesis, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen back into it.
Goodyear estimates that if all the vehicles in a city the size of Paris, which is home to about 2.5 million vehicles, were fitted with the Oxygene, more than 4,000 tonnes of CO2 would be absorbed and 3,000 tonnes of oxygen released back into the atmosphere annually.
The moss is fed by water from the road, while vanes within the core of the tyre suck air into its centre to provide a plentiful supply of CO2 for the moss. Airborne dust provides any minerals the moss also needs to survive. The open structure of the tyre helps provide grip in wet conditions and allows water to penetrate into the tyre to keep the moss damp.
As the car speeds up, then centrifugal force ejects the water absorbed in the tyre. “This isn’t a problem,” said LeMaire, “moss is a very hardy plant and doesn’t need much water to survive. A humid atmosphere is enough.”
The energy produced by photosynthesis can also be harnessed as what LeMaire calls “measurable levels of electricity”. That translates to enough power to light an LED strip in the wall of the tyre for “visible communications”, such as signalling the car’s next manoeuvre to pedestrians and other road users.
That electrical power would also power LiFi, a light-based equivalent to WiFi, allowing the car to communicate with other vehicles (V2V) as well as the infrastructure (V2I). Both are seen as important to creating smart mobility systems, including the use of autonomous vehicles, in the future.
3D-printed from recycled rubber powder sourced from worn-out tyres, the Oxygene would be immeasurably more sustainable than conventional rubber.
Producing the Oxygene may seem improbable but elements of other concepts shown by the company on previous occasions are now becoming a reality. One example is the “intelligent tyre prototype”, which is embedded with sensors. The tyre can communicate information relating to its condition back to base via the cloud, something useful for vehicle fleets in the short term, but which LeMaire thinks will be essential to support autonomous vehicles in the future.
Another concept called the Efficientgrip Performance, designed specifically for electric vehicles (EVs) is due for production in 2019.
- Telegraph UK