Friday, September 26, 2014

DIAMOND NANOTHREADS = SPACE ELEVATOR? Sure, we dated Carbon nanotubes but it’s not like we’re married!

Okay, the issue to having a space elevator has been the thread – getting something that is both strong and can be woven to a length that extends up past the geosynchronous orbit and is approximately 10 meters in diameter. ‘We’ have been working on the space elevator for quite some time (from Google, to JAXA, to NASA, other countries and private companies) and now the expected year has changed from 2015 to 2035 (probably more do-able). The basic problem has always been in the idea of the carbon nanotube or boron nitride nanotube materials as the tensile element in the tether design. For years NASA has been offering a $2 million dollar prize to the person or lab that is able to weave it to any real length, but so far no takers. Now it seems we have options. Awesome! Maybe that 2035 year is too far off now!

To review; you don’t need to look far to find a space elevator, at least in Science Fiction. Arthur C. Clarke’s Fountains of Paradise or more recent Sunstorm and Kimberly Stanley Robinson’s 2312 are just some examples. A space elevator is nothing more than a cable that is fixed to a spot along the equator (at sea is the best from a security standpoint and in the eastern equatorial pacific to avoid storms). There is a counter weight at the upper end – out past the geosynchronous orbit and a tether that connects the two. A Climber (elevator car) climbs the cable in between the anchor and the counterweight.

A Space Elevator may cost mankind some $$ but it will also save plenty! Making transfer of cargo to the moon a simple event, placement of satellites into orbit, no problem, and astronauts would be able to launch to Mars, Europa, Alpha Centauri and oh yeah, the Moon for cheap and so more frequently. And further down the line when the world has many space elevators civilians could have a crawl to the stars ad back.

 Back to the recent discovery by some scientists from Penn State University; they have discovered how to produce a super-thin, super strong diamond nanothreads. Pretty cool, right?  A thread that is a long, strong, miniature diamond necklace – you know that will make the market place sing!

Of course there are some other applications of this product, one of which involves the making of fuel-efficient cars. The intention of the research team is to continue on to see what other neat products and uses they can find through adding atoms to the nanothreads.

But when you think about it, what do you create after you have solved a problem that will allow the world to reach the stars – literally?

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