History & Evolution Of Wheels | Why Nitrogen Is Used In Aircraft Tyres

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‘Hey, the location is not far from here. Let’s walk’

‘Walk? Our destination is 15 miles away! Are you living in medieval times? We have cars now.’

There was a time when people used to walk miles and miles to reach their destination. We are talking about the time when pigeons were the messenger. We all know how much science has been helping us in making our lives easier day by day.

And it is not just during this century, science has been helping us for quite a long time now. One of the greatest inventions that science has blessed us with is the invention of wheels.

Nowadays, we always look for the fastest type of commute to save time. This mentality of moving fast and getting somewhere within a short time is not something new. People way back used to think like that. And that led to one of the revolutionary inventions for mankind!

History and Invention of Wheels

1. The Earliest Known Invention Of Wheels

From the urge of traveling long distances and exploring new continents, came the invention of the wheel. Like many others, it indeed was Mesopotamia which was home to the first-ever working wheel. This was the beginning of a huge timeline of the history of wheel.

Obviously, like all other inventions, the origin is controversial. But Mesopotamia has been established as the home of the wheels. And the first models of the wheel was made way before today, roundabout 5500 years ago.

The wheels produced back then were solely used by blacksmiths to accelerate their daily chores. The idea that they would be great for moving and traveling came a little later.

A wooden wheel on top of green grass

Now, Caucasian people may feel slightly hard done because of their part in terms of the invention of the wheel. Many historians believe that it was in Caucasia during 5000 BC, almost 1500 years before the Mesopotamia wheel invention came to life, that the first grounds of wheels were established.

Archaeologists found pictures of a vehicle, with two wheels in the middle, carrying a corpse. Also, Poland is pretty significant in terms of wheels as there were pictures of four-wheeled vehicles found from their histories.

It took quite a while for people to understand its other utilizations. And period was not some 10 or 20 years later, it wasn’t even a century or two. It took almost 2000 years.

2. The Problems With The Initial Wheels

In the national museum of Slovenia, there kept a wooden remain of something that can be called a wheel. Archaeologists are reluctant to confirm it as a wheel because the piece is extremely ancient. It has lost its essence or identity to a long extent.

However, Slovenia was indeed the home to the first-ever wheel that was used to move. At the very first, tires were made by cutting the trunks of trees that were huge in diameter. They were sawed and cut to precision so that it looks spherical and it can be rolled around easily.

And that was it. People attached those huge circular tree trunks under their vehicles and would move a tone bit faster.

But there was still a problem. Despite being a revolutionary invention, the new and faster speeds of wooden wheels were not meeting up to the expectations. For example, where it needed 5 days to go by foot, the wooden wheels would take up almost 4 days or even more.

Therefore, the difference was not up to the expected mark. And that is where another big and extremely vital change came along.

3. Evolution of Wheels

It was not until 1000 BC that people understood where the change needed to be brought. They finally realized, it was time for the effective operational evolution of the wheels.

So they decided to wield in steel coverings over the wooden wheels which would help with smoother movement over almost any surface. The problems with wooden ones were they were prone to friction and breaking. But with iron and steel bearings over them, they became easier to move.

But there was still one unexpected trouble to deal with. It turned out that despite people knowing that using the wheels would make their lives easier and help them move faster, many resisted change. As heard from the ancient mythology and legends, they did so in a desperate attempt to preserve the legacy set by their ancestors.

4. The Biggest Breakthrough

There are quite a lot of revolutionary turns in the timeline of wheels. But perhaps the biggest one came at the beginning of the 19th century. An Irish crew found that the wheels used were really heavy as they were made of wood and steel bearings on them were weighing them down.

Therefore, they decided to go for a lighter edition. During 1808, that Irish team made a wheel of steel and attached spokes with it along the axis to make the movements even faster and easier.

And while the Mesopotamia or the Slovenian inventions of the wheel were extremely important and groundbreaking, one might argue this invention in the 19th century was the most meaningful in the timeline of wheels.

Two carraiage wheels

This wiring technique took out the weight problem of the previous wheels and made it possible to use on almost any vehicle or instrument. From Bicycles to War tanks and even the old school sewing machines were massively benefited by this invention.

After that, things progressed quickly. Another big advancement was during 1845 when RW Thompson patented for pneumatic tires, which turn into bigger size once air gets inside them.

John Dunlop then enhanced and enriched this theory of Thompson. He made pneumatic tires for his own and patented for himself. Nowadays, Dunlop tire is another word for vehicle tires.

Finally, during the latter stages of the 19th century, Andre and Edward Michelin established Michelin Tire Company which became famous worldwide. And in 1910, BF Goodrich Company added carbon to the rubber of the tires, making them even more long-lasting.

5. Rubbers To The Rescue

Next step was to make the smoother new edition wheels to be able to commute easily. And for that, the technique was to introduce various sorts of synthetic rubber bearings over the actual wheel.

These rubbers were extremely durable and therefore could be moved along any surface, no matter how hard or rocky they seem to be. On top of that, as they were filled with air, it made moving even easier.

This is the technique that has been used around the world ever since. From Bicycles to Race cars, everything is run on the rubber wheels.

However, one will be surprised to know that Airplanes or airbuses use this technique somewhat differently. Instead of infusing air to the tires, they use inert Nitrogen for their specific purposes.

Why Nitrogen Is Used in Aircraft Tyres

Now, one might notice that every time a car or even a motorcycle drops to the ground after being airborne for even a few seconds, they create friction and the tires feel like they are about to burst. Sometimes they even do.

But that does not happen with airbuses or Aeroplane wheels. The reason is, motorbike/car tires or wheels are filled with air. Airplane wheels are filled with Nitrogen. Why is that? Let us present some interesting facts for you.

1. Less Prone To Combustion

We all know that Air is nothing but a mere combination of the various gas molecules that can explode under high temperatures or pressures. Nitrogen is an inert gas, meaning it shows very little reaction to other gases or surfaces.

Hence, the nitrogen gas inside the tires of the airplanes doesn’t initiate chain chemical procedure with rubber. Thus, they are not prone to combustion, making them the best choice for lifting airplanes or airbuses.

2. Doesn’t Change It’s State Easily

The humidity present in the air can turn into water drops or ice at relatively lower atmospheric temperatures.

As aircraft fly between 31,000-38,000 feet height on average, liquidation or crystallization of water molecules can be very dangerous and cause accidents when aircraft tires land on the ground.

Nitrogen contains very low moisture. And it has a very low melting point of minus 210 degree Celsius. As the height aircraft fly on doesn’t usually get cooler than minus 55 degree Celsius. There’s no chance of liquidation or crystallization.

3. Low Maintenance Cost

Another huge plus point of using Nitrogen is, they have very less water vapor than the air. Thus, they can hold the tire pressure longer than the air.

As a result, aircrews don’t need to change the nitrogen supply or even the tires frequently. Because Nitrogen is, as mentioned before, an inert gas. So the pressure stays pretty much unchanged.

A simple modern wheel


Many may call the invention of the telephone, television the greatest of mankind. And that might well have some truth in it. But one must not forget, history of advancement started with the invention of wheels.

With the lightning speed at which technology is advancing, people are being drawn towards fancy gadgets more and more. Most of us are slowly forgetting the contributions of the old school, the core inventions of science that has made our lives so much easier.

But it’s necessary to know the history history of wheel. It’ll help us learn the evolution of human lifestyle and gives us something to be gratified for. Without the wheels, we couldn’t enjoy the awesomeness of our cars.

Speaking of gratitude, let us imagine a world without wheels, we couldn’t enjoy the shine of our tires! Most of the prosperity and luxury we’re enjoying today wouldn’t have been possible then. Fortunately enough, we do not have to imagine such catastrophe, thanks to those round rescuers known as wheels.