AKRON—Goodyear's next research project is out of this world.
The Akron-based tire maker disclosed plans to test tire components in space. According to a July 24 news release, the development is part of a project in the International Space Station's U.S. National Laboratory, through an experiment expected to take place later this year.
The company made the announcement during the ISS Research and Development Conference, which is taking place in San Francisco.
Goodyear said that in a microgravity environment on the space station, it will study the formation of silica particles, a common material used in consumer tires. By gathering knowledge from this evaluation, Goodyear engineers and scientists "can determine if further investigation of unique forms of precipitated silica should be considered in tires," according to a news release.
The company said recent academic experiments in microgravity conditions have demonstrated the ability to generate unique morphologies that could show potential in delivering higher performance products. Any breakthrough associated with the investigation on the space station could lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and other performance factors, the company said.
Goodyear's work is being done through an agreement with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, the organization tasked by NASA to manage the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.
Cynthia Bouthot, director of commercial innovation for CASIS, said in a statement that Goodyear's research onboard the space station "further demonstrates that companies are thinking creatively to enhance their product lines, while also looking at humanitarian ways to improve the condition of our planet."
The space station project is the latest ambitious research effort from Goodyear.
In May, the company announced it had partnered with Mcity, a public-private partnership led by the University of Michigan to develop and advance connected and automated vehicle technology. Goodyear is conducting testing at the Mcity Test Facility, a purpose-built proving ground in Ann Arbor, Mich.
And in September 2017, Goodyear teamed up with a California startup called Tesloop to test intelligent tires.