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McGill University researchers show off lunar rover prototype with unique 'iRing' wheels

Donald Melanson, @donmelanson
January 3, 2011
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We've already seen researchers at the University of Chicago and Cornell use coffee grounds to develop an entirely different type of robotic hand, and it looks like some folks at McGill University in Montreal, Canada have also been taking a similar approach to quite literally reinvent the wheel. That's being done as part of the Lunar Exploration Light Rover (or LELR) project, which is aiming to build a lunar rover that's light and able to navigate difficult terrain (i.e. the surface of the moon) with ease. One of the key aspects of that, of course, are the wheels, and the McGill researchers' solution is something called the "iRing" -- a wheel made of a chainmail-type fabric and filled with "granular particulate matter" (or tiny pieces of metal). That creates a wheel that's heavy and sturdy enough to avoid bouncing around on the moon, but still flexible enough to absorb shocks and overcome any obstacles. Will it actually wind up on the moon? That remains to be seen, but the researchers expect the final prototype of the complete rover (which could even carry a crew) to be complete in the spring of 2012. Be sure to hit up the via link below for the best look at the rover on video.

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