(Re)Inventing the wheel

Man's greatest invention has been given a new twist with the help of some innovative materials. The Loopwheel is a shock absorber and wheel in one, and to date has been applied to bicycles. However, it is being re-engineered and refined for use with wheelchairs.

Three carbon fibre loops form a spring between the hub and the rim of the wheel to provide wheelchair users with suspension. The resin and fibre combination of the composite material has been honed to offer an optimum amount of compression, flexure, and lateral stability as well as strength and durability.

Carbon fibre is well known as a brittle material, so using it essentially as a spring for this application seems particularly remarkable. It is the resin system that is thought to enable many of the favourable properties needed to make this particular application a success.

Bonded connectors attach the springs to the hub and rim, and the spring configuration allows for any torque to be transferred smoothly between them. Huntsman Advanced Materials supplied the epoxy Araldite adhesives used to bond each Loopwheel together and provide the strong bond needed.

Wheelchair users have reported greater levels of comfort than standard wheels as they absorb vibrations, bumps and shocks while travelling both on and off road.


Justin Cunningham

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