NASA study points to nanotubes as key material for orbital towers

from the going-(way)-up;-watch-your-step! dept.
Brian Wang writes "An article from New Scientist posted at EurekAlert describes recent NASA studies on the feasibility of space elevators and orbital towers. The interesting aspect is the view of some solutions to making nanotubes cheaply and long enough to be the primary structural material."

According to the article, two independent NASA teams recently work out the technological requirements and found them to be feasible. The article also notes that "carbon has been elevated to the material of choice. In the form of diamond, it shows record-breaking mechanical properties. Diamond can't be spun into filaments, but there is a form of carbon that combines strength with length: nanotubes. These . . . exceed the tensile strength of steel by at least a factor of 100." The problem, as the article notes, is synthesizing nanotube molecules long enough construct the cable at the heart of the orbital tower.

Additional information about the space elevator studies can be found at this NASA website.

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