LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - In July, Texas Tech professor Gregory McKenna received a $345,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to head a three-year study of ring molecules with the possibility of creating more fuel-efficient tires.
McKenna explains that tires are currently made of linear polymers, or a simple chain of molecules, which untangle and change the way tires absorb energy.
"In the case of the rings, so far, we haven't found that they untangle and that implies that their energy absorption properties will be different," McKenna said. "We think that they'll be better. So, we have reason to believe that, but we haven't proven it yet."
The hope is that this study will lead to a much more fuel-efficient and longer-lasting tire.
"That could have an improvement in their fuel economy, it could conceivably make for a tire that lasts a little longer," McKenna said. "If we have 300 million cars in the economy we have...1.2 billion tires. That could be a big deal."
McKenna says federal grants like this one from the Department of Energy don't just benefit faculty of the university.
"We train students and the students, after they're done, they go out and they use their knowledge," McKenna said. "They won't necessarily go to work for a tire company, but they could go to work for a roofing company, they could go to work for the Department of Defense. So, they go into the economy and do good things."
Texas Tech is heading this study with contributions from the University of Akron in Ohio, and California Institute of Technology.