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In a previous post, we saw that Seth Clevenger, reporting for Transport Topics in 2012, indicated that trucking companies largely agree on the performance benefits of nitrogen inertion. What do tire manufacturers say? Their opinions seem to be scattered and cautious.

http://inertion.org/tire-manufacturers-nitrogen-side/

Dan Guiney of Yokohama reported that nitrogen-inerted tires still require tire-pressure maintenance. This fact is not in dispute—rubber in your tires is permeable to all of the gases in compressed air, not just oxygen and nitrogen.

http://inertion.org/tires-less-permeable-nitrogen-oxygen-conceptual-understanding/

http://inertion.org/tires-less-permeable-nitrogen-oxygen-numerical-understanding/

Nevertheless, research clearly indicates that nitrogen-inerted tires hold pressure for longer than tires filled with compressed air. This may be beneficial for common users who do not regularly check their tire pressure.

Guy Walenga of Bridgestone reported that the cost of nitrogen inertion outweighs the performance benefits. His claim is based on the opinion that improved pressure retention is the only proven benefit.

This is an incorrect claim. For example, research from even before 2012 strongly indicates that the oxygen in compressed air, especially in hot climates, damages tires.

http://inertion.org/tire-oxidation-part-3-confirming-role-oxidation-non-recalled-tires/

http://inertion.org/tire-oxidation-part-4-laboratory-results-compared-field-results/

Michelin recommended nitrogen inertion for high-risk uses, airplanes, and racing, yet did not reach a consensus on other uses. They acknowledged that nitrogen reduces pressure loss, yet advised that leaks from the tire–rim interface is also an important contributor to pressure loss and should not be ignored. This is a valid point, but is not an argument against nitrogen inertion.

Similarly, Goodyear recommended nitrogen inertion for certain applications of earthmover tires. They nevertheless maintained that there is no consensus for on-road trucks, and leaned toward there being little to no benefit.

Tire manufacturers are apparently reluctant to accept the established and evolving science of nitrogen inertion. Nevertheless, published experiments and in-field testing by trucking companies tend to be supportive.

Perhaps it would have been more balanced for Clevenger to report that his investigation uncovered reasonable trucking industry studies indicating performance benefits of nitrogen inertion, and an understandably cautious tire industry that would appreciate additional in-field research. Typical consumers can use nitrogen inertion to avoid the oxidative damage caused by compressed air.

  1. Clevenger. “Consensus scarce for nitrogen tire inflation.” Transport Topics, March 19, 2012. http://www.ttnews.com/articles/consensus-scarce-nitrogen-tire-inflation

 

Post Author: Michael Scott Long Ph.D.

Ph.D. Chemistry from Penn State University. Specialization in analytical chemistry, polymer science and nanoscience.

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