Two Michelin researchers have been awarded the 2018 European Inventor Award for developing a regenerating automotive tyre that is more durable than conventional tyres, and so could reduce accidents involving vehicles.
Agnès Poulbot and Jacques Barraud, who work for the French tyre manufacturer, first patented their tread design in 2013, which was sold to heavy vehicle producers later that year.
The design includes several unique layers of tread within the same tyre; as the outermost layer is worn down, a new, specialised tread will emerge to be in contact with the road surface. This design has created a tyre described as ‘auto-regenerating’ by the European Patent Office (EPO).
The EPO said in a press release: “Essentially, the tyre ‘auto-regenerates’ as it wears down. The tyre tread is optimised for minimal energy dissipation and reduced rolling resistance in order to secure the best possible performance during its lifetime.
“Agnès Poulbot worked with Michelin’s senior expert in tyre design and production for heavy vehicles – Barraud – to prepare the design for manufacturing. The two created a special mould to realise the tread patterns by 3D metal printing and enable production on an industrial scale.”
These tyres are reported to have a 20% longer tyre lifespan and feature lower resistance than conventional tyres, which the EPO claims will result in 3,724kg fewer carbon dioxide emissions per tyre lifespan. The design – which is sold commercially under the Regenion brand – is estimated to be present in 15% of Michelin’s heavy-duty tyre sales by 2019, and 30% by 2022.
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Michelin is already responsible for what is currently the largest tyre in the world, a 63in tyre used for mining machines, in addition to around 200 components used in various mining vehicles. The company says that their tyres aim to provide ‘the highest levels of reliability focusing on safety and performance’.