At one time, the chassis of the rover Curiosity was specially equipped with wear sensors, which showed that the insidious Martian soil destroys the wheels of the car faster than planned. The weak points of this design are insufficient flexibility and low strength to mechanical deformation. Small pebbles were not perceived as an obstacle, but when driving through them sharp edges spoiled the metal wheels.
The solution can be a new format of wheels for the rover, woven in the manner of mail, but not from rings, but from hundreds of thin spirals. They are very similar to springs, but all are intertwined into one and do not have protruding parts. Due to this, the wheel is almost impossible to pierce or tear, it will not catch on to the obstacle, but it provides a large area of contact with the ground.
One braided know-how is not limited to, NASA engineers have used here also a new nickel-titanium alloy. It has a memory of shape and easily withstands plastic deformation up to 10% of its volume. Coupled with the fact that the structure of the wheel itself is flexible, a super-elastic design is obtained, which is not afraid of any mechanical damage.
“Superelastic” tires are unlikely to appear on the next rover , yet this technology is experimental. But now the alloy itself is already being used to create thermal and anti-debris shields for satellites. In addition, there is a hope that the design of the “chain bus” will be of interest to the auto industry – although they are expensive to manufacture, but almost eternal and do not need pumping.