Diamond Nanothreads For Space Elevators?
Ultra-thin 'diamond nano threads' have been discovered by researchers at Penn State University. They have remarkable properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today’s strongest nanotubes and polymers.
(Diamond Nanothreads For Space Elevators video)
The core is a long, thin strand of carbon atoms arranged just like the fundamental unit of a diamond’s structure — zig-zag “cyclohexane” rings of six carbon atoms bound together, in which each carbon is surrounded by others in the strong triangular-pyramid shape of a tetrahedron.
“It is as if an incredible jeweler has strung together the smallest possible diamonds into a long miniature necklace,” Badding said.
“Because this thread is diamond at heart, we expect that it will prove to be extraordinarily stiff, extraordinarily strong, and extraordinarily useful.”
“One of our wildest dreams for the nanomaterials we are developing is that they could be used to make the super-strong, lightweight cables that would make possible the construction of a “space elevator” (a cable fixed to the equator and reaching up into space), which so far has existed only as a science-fiction idea,” [John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University] said.
Arthur C. Clarke thought that this kind of material might provide the answer to the cable problem on space elevators in his 1976 novel Fountains of Paradise:
The reason you can't see this sample is that it's only a few microns thick. Much thinner than a spider's web."
"...What is it?"
"The result of two hundred years of solid-state physics. For whatever good that does, it is a continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal - though it's not actually pure carbon. There are several trace elements in carefully controlled amounts. It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories, where there's no gravity to interfere with the growth process."
(Read more about Clarke's 1D diamond crystal)
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