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European Inventor Award 2018: two Michelin researchers nominated

The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced the list of finalists for the European Inventor Award 2018. Amongst them are Agnes Poulbot and Jacques Barraud, two researchers from Michelin. Nominated in the Industry category, the French researchers have designed an auto-regenerating tread to make tyres greener and more efficient.

Agnes Poulbot has been nominated for the European Inventor Award 2018 for the development of an auto-regenerating tyre

Agnes Poulbot has been nominated for the European Inventor Award 2018 for the development of an auto-regenerating tyre© EPO

Better performance for worn tyres

In 2013, Michelin patented an innovative tread technology. Thanks to its auto-regenerating properties, the tyre “regenerates” its tread as it wears down, reducing its rolling resistance. This decreases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions while increasing the tyre’s lifespan by 20%.

To achieve this result, Agnes Poulbot, a mathematician and expert in 3-D modelling, completely rethought the tyre design. The researcher replaced the standard single-layer tread design made with a specific pattern and depth with a new design composed of multiple layers and a shallow tread pattern. Over the miles this tread wears down to reveal a second tread with edges and grooves. And, when this second layer wears down, a third layer appears. In this way, the tyre regenerates itself as it wears down, while the tread design is optimised to minimise energy dissipation and rolling resistance. It therefore becomes more efficient and greener.

New design and production methods 

This new concept, marketed under the name “Regenion”, has required the introduction of new production methods. Together with Jacques Barraud, who was senior expert in tyre design and production for heavy vehicles until he passed away in 2016, Agnes Poulbot created a special mould to create the tread patterns and enable production on an industrial scale. This was made possible with 3D metal printing.

Technology for the environment and public health

Car engines are responsible for at least 20% of the world’s CO2 emissions, meaning that the improved energy efficiency of tyres with “Regenion” technology is of significant public interest. As Agnes Poulbot explains, the stakes are high. According to the researcher, if all Michelin truck tyres in Europe were equipped with this technology, the result would be an annual emissions reduction equivalent to a month’s worth of CO2 produced by a city the size of Paris. And according to Michelin, owner of the patent, the auto-regenerating tread could extend the lifespan of tyres by up to 15-20% enabling motorists to drive more miles on the same tyres.

The winners of the European Inventor Award 2018 will be announced at a ceremony on 7 June 2018 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. Prior to this, the Popular Prize will be given to the finalist who receives the most votes online.

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