Long ago the human race invented the wheel. A shame not to be there to tell about that new technology, I admit I broke the news. Since then he has seen many, and is still very useful, even on Mars (in the Perseverance rover). It sounds like a very difficult invention to modify, but that hasn't stopped researchers from designing a new tire. A shapeshifter, a sort of origami capable of altering its structure.
The project has just been published in the magazine Science Robotics, and it is a "birth" of Seoul National University, Harvard University e Hankook Tire and Technology Co.
A shape-changing wheel: the next evolution?
The new tire can go from a thinner and more conventional shape to a thicker and chunky structure. This shape-shifting design allows the wheels to deliver significant benefits that 'classic wheel' structures cannot match.
Despite its cumbersome name, “High Load Capacity Transformable Origami Wheel,” the new design uses the very principle of origami. To be precise: a tessellation origami. It is not exactly a new invention, but previous models were unable to support the “transformation” loads in different forms. And therefore they were of little use. Not this one: this one holds up.
The new shape-shifting wheel can support more than 1.019 kg (2.248 lbs), even as it changes shape. The origami design uses flexible membranes that fold outwards. It has a flexibility that allows it to absorb shocks and distortions even from uneven ground.
With a "thin" shape it moves on obstacle terrain. With a more massive shape it runs smoothly even on sand. It may not be on the next luxury sedan, but the shape-shifting wheel has possible applications for rovers for upcoming space missions.