How NASA Reinvented The Wheel

How NASA Reinvented The Wheel

NASA have made a wheel capable of withstanding tough Martian terrain, but just how indestructible is it? Head to and enter code ‘Veritasium’ for 100 free blades with the purchase of a razor. Make sure to add both the razor and the blades to your cart for the code to take effect.

A huge thanks to everyone at NASA Glenn Research Center for having us at the SLOPE Lab, showing their work on this indestructible tire, and helping with the science and animation.
A huge thanks to everyone at Smart Tire Co for showing us around their facility, teaching us about nitinol, and letting us flatten their tires.


Steel Rod Footage –

H. Föll. 8.4.1 – Martensite. University of Kiel, Faculty of Engineering –

Bhattacharya, K. (1998). Theory of martensitic microstructure and the shape-memory effect –

Bhattacharya, K. (2003). Microstructure of martensite: why it forms and how it gives rise to the shape-memory effect (Vol. 2). Oxford University Press. –

Shaw, J. A. (2008). Tips and tricks for characterizing shape memory alloy wire: part 1—differential scanning calorimetry and basic phenomena. Experimental Techniques –

Buehler, W. J., Gilfrich, J. V., & Wiley, R. C. (1963). Effect of low‐temperature phase changes on the mechanical properties of alloys near composition TiNi. Journal of applied physics, 34(5), 1475-1477.

Special thanks to our Patreon supporters:
Emil Abu Milad, Tj Steyn, meg noah, Bernard McGee, KeyWestr, Amadeo Bee, TTST, Balkrishna Heroor, John H. Austin, Jr., john kiehl, Anton Ragin, Benedikt Heinen, Diffbot, Gnare, Dave Kircher, Burt Humburg, Blake Byers, Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Bill Linder, Paul Peijzel, Josh Hibschman, Mac Malkawi, Juan Benet, Ubiquity Ventures, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Stephen Wilcox, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Michael Krugman, Cy ‘kkm’ K’Nelson, Sam Lutfi.

Written by Derek Muller, Katie Barnshaw, & Emily Zhang
Edited by Trenton Oliver
Animated by Mike Radjabov & Ivy Tello
Coordinated by Emily Zhang
Filmed by Derek Muller, Emily Zhang & Raquel Nuno
Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images & Pond5
Music from Epidemic Sound
Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev, & Emily Zhang
Thumbnail by Ignat Berbeci

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38 Responses

  1. Fozzdaddy12 says:

    As an engineer I’ve known of nitinol for a while, did some labs with it in college. But I never saw the example of bending the nitinol pipe in half and have it return to shape. Awesome material

  2. Konstantin Lasko says:

    I love the excitement and positive energy from all those engineers! They’re really happy to show their work.

  3. Jarret Burgener says:

    As an engineer grad who had to work with material science this video was very facinating, and really gets you trying to think about other applications for such a material. I bet racecar companies are looking into this material for their tires. I wonder if you could use this material with appropriate heat controls to increase traction or decrease traction of the tire during the race. If so, I could easily see it being one of the biggest improvements to long-term race times as you could “deflate” the tire on harsh turns, and to slow down leading into them, and then “inflate” the tire on straights for speed.

    • Will says:

      On god

    • Farhan Af says:

      We can help scientists to develop better materials by processing data from Boinc distributed computing software

    • Chehyst Pewpur says:

      think about it the other way around. tire problems in racing come from the tires heating and the tire expands and pressures go up causing the tires to wear and contact patch to decrease. imagine a tire that was more inflated when its cold and less inflated as its heated. you would have a more stable tire that basically stays the same at any speed or load or turn. that would be good. but i feel like metal rubbing around inside rubber is going to kill what they use for a tire skin. just the metal mesh would be terrible for traction so something will be over it im sure.
      maybe when pouring the rubber or silicone for the tire they could put the mesh in the mold and use this stuff like the belts in a tire so it wouldnt rub on the skin but be part of it and keep it in its shape like a skeleton.

    • sendoh7x says:

      @BigMitchy i dunno man. up to the engineers to figure it out. or just probably not suitable for that purpose

  4. Nikola Tesla says:

    What i really like about this videos, is the fact that the people that work in these places are actually nice and kind and are willing to share the beauty of science to whoever is in front of them.
    That’s passion right here guys

  5. Vatsal says:

    I am preparing for a solids class test, and I will be asked about everything discussed here. This video not only improved my understanding of the topic but it went beyond discussing this new material for me, the applications, different scenarios and even the history. In short, you have made a goldmine of a video. Thank You so much, Veretasium Team. I really love your channel, and you never cease to amaze me.

  6. Eyerleth says:

    I had NiTiNOL wires in my orthodontics as a teenager. They worked to slowly, continually push the teeth into their new positions, rather than needing painful tightening every couple of weeks. Quite an impressive material!

  7. Thomas king says:

    The work NASA are doing is incredible!

  8. Jak Attak says:

    I wish I had this guy’s life, he does some fascinating things and explains them so simply

  9. Kashan Alidjan says:

    It was mentioned that NiTiNOL is being used in multiple applications, which is super neat as I was able to use it for radio astronomy applications in my graduation thesis. Making large structures with NiTiNOL is way cheaper than launching and constructing them in space. The opportunities are almost endless!

    • Gabi Ferreira says:

      I really wonder what’s the downside of this material? Is it just cost?
      Cause all I’ve heard of it is super positive, if it is as good as it sounds we could have great developments in the near future

    • The SMART Tire Company says:

      Yes, so many possibilities!

  10. shawn ludlow says:

    I’m a racer, trucks, motorcyles, sand dunes and I loved this video!
    The spring interlay, layout reminds me of when I used snow chains in the sand dunes with a 1 wheel drive truck and tiny street tires, it worked.

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