Carbon Nanotube Ribbon For Space Elevator

Carbon nanotube ribbons created in a University of Texas laboratory may stretch all the way into space. According to research to be published in Science today, Dr. Mei Zhang and his team have succeeded in creating yard-long ribbons of carbon nanotubes - just the sort of ultra-light, ultra-strong filaments needed to create the space elevator (among many other things).


(From Carbon Nanotube Ribbon)

The researchers started with a "forest" of nanotubes about 300 micrometres long, held together by van der Waals forces. They used the glue from a post-it note to tug at right angles at the nanotubes on the outside of the forest (see graphic below).

Still held together by van der Waals forces, the nanotubes were spun out into a metre-long strip no more than 10 micrometers thick. "When you pull on one, it actually pulls the others but it has to rotate," says researcher Ken Atkinson. Using this method the researchers produced the nanotube ribbon at a rate of 7 metres per minute, about three times slower than the rate for commercial wool spinning at 20 metres per minute.


(From Carbon Nanotube Ribbon Spun from Vertical Forest of Nanotubes)

The researchers then laid the nanotube ribbon on a piece of glass and soaked it in ethanol. This caused the nanotubes to line up more closely with each other making a transparent ribbon just 50 nanometres thick. Sheets more than a meter long, about two inches wide, and less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair thick can be pulled in less than a minute, by hand in the lab.

In his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke writes about the enabling technology for a space elevator - the one-dimensional diamond (carbon) crystal:

"So you do have an invisible wire. Clever - but what use is it, except for parlour tricks?"

"I can't blame you for jumping to that conclusion. But it's quite wrong. 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."

"Fascinating ... I can appreciate that this may have all sorts of technical applications. It would make a splendid cheese cutter."
(Read more about the One-dimensional Diamond Crystal)

A space elevator is essentially a long cable that is anchored on Earth at one end - and "anchored" at the other end 35,000 kilometers away by a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Gravity and centripetal acceleration keeps the cable taut; a small elevator, or car, can crawl up the elevator at a fraction of the energy expenditure needed to actually hurl an object into orbit. Putting a satellite in orbit could cost hundreds of dollars per pound, rather than $7,000 per pound as it does on the space shuttle.

Read more at Little creation, big step and Space elevator comes closer to reality.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/19/2005)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 31 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'- Otto Willi Gail, 1929.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

LA Subway Scanner, As Seen In 'Total Recall'
'I'm afraid to tell you this Mr. Quaid, but you have suffered a schizoed embolism...'

Sion Electric Car Covered With Solar Panels
'It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'

Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'

'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'

Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.