Self-inflating tire system with air pumps embedded into tire stems
(the invention I made today not by TRIZ)

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

Today in "The Wall Street Journal" I saw the title "Nissan Says You May Not Need a Tire Gauge" and erroneously thought that the article was about making tires of passanger cars self-inflating as on some military vehicles. I opened the article and read it, but it left me disappointed. Nissan did not eliminate the need to pump up the tires by motorists. Just the need in the tire pressure gauges was eliminated (not a big deal when all cars now have a tire pressure monitor).

The article stated that many motorists don't know how to use air pressure gauges and I thought that probably even more people do not know how to use air pump. If external tire gauge was replaced by the built-in gauge located in the tire stem, why would not then go further and also replace the external air pump by a pump embedded into the stem as well ?

That was a reasoning by analogy prompted by misreading the title of the article. But retroactively I momentarily realized all TRIZ-like elements in the idea that struck me:

I initially doubted that I was first to come up with this idea and searched on the internet. But the closest what I could find was a 2006 University of Michigan report titled "Dynamically-Self-Inflating Tire System", which still featured a macro-air pump (as on military vehicles) located somewhere in the car and connected to all 4 tires by hoses. The only common element with my proposal was the use of air-pressure sensors to self activate the pump.

I was amazed and thought that maybe micro-pumps small enough to fit into the tire stem do not exist, but search on the internet revealed that such pumps do exist even with dimensions in the micrometre range.

It is surprising that the idea of a tiny air pump embedded into the tire stem has not struck somebody else so far. One may object that such a small pump would not be able to inflate a tire. That's true if it is a flat tire. But most tires leak air very slowly and these leaks can be compensated by pumps in stems.

Anyway, it is clear from this experience that thinking by analogy (if the gauge was made small and put into stem then pump could be made small and also put into stem) has many advantages over systematic thinking based on trends of evolution. When people say that they invented something by TRIZ it is more likely that they did it by analogy, but being poor self-analysts they simply did not realize that. It seemed to them that they did it by TRIZ because they instantly recognized TRIZ elements in their solution.