“What Floor ma’am?”

Now you may be very confused about what I am going to talk about in this post. But I will lay it out in Lehman’s terms. Someone is trying to create an elevator to space.

An innovation that may make this possible is a new form of carbon ribbon that’s ultra-flexible and super-strong could become the infrastructure for the first working space elevator. Now my first thought, was “That is Awesome!” Then my second thought was “That is impossible.” Well, maybe not. NASA holds regular competitions to inspire people to come up with materials that would make a space elevator possible, and the team behind the new ribbon material developed it for one of NASA’s competitions. The Times Online reported that,

“A team at Cambridge University has created the world’s strongest ribbon: a cylindrical strand of carbon
that combines lightweight flexibility with incredible strength and has the potential to stretch vast distances.
The development has been seized upon by the space scientists, who believe the technology
could allow astronauts to travel into space via a cable thousands of miles long – a space elevator.”

The development of space elevators has been really coming out of the woodwork as far as material innovation. If this material works, NASA has asked for about roughly 144,00 miles of the material. But, Alan Windle, professor of materials science at Cambridge University says that there is a big difference in what can be made in a lab, and what can industrially be made. He wants to reign in the explosion of excitement and delve deeply into developing the science of the material.

Space Elevator Idea

Space Elevator Idea

Who knows, maybe one day, the resort that everyone will want to go to will be on the moon, and it will only take a few minutes to get there.

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3 comments

  1. fauds004

    I had the same reaction that you did, along with other questions, like how would they be able to know how this material would react in space? Would it be safe? How would it be constructed? Furthermore, how could it stay stable in space? That’s just a few questions that I would ask. Another thing that caught my attention was how they were able to create the world’s strongest ribbon, yet it’s lightweight and flexible, but then again, so is nanogel. Obviously lab tests would have to be done prior to constructing anything, followed industrial tests, like you mentioned in the last paragraph.
    This would be really interesting to watch if it were ever constructed and if it were, what would come next? Creating cities on the moon enclosed in domes and somehow producing oxygen allowing people to visit there, or possibly even live there? All theories that scientists have talked about, but maybe one day it may come true.
    Overall, I thought this was a very interesting post, and they should definitely further this research (which they probably are), but I think that this is a new door way into space, or should I say elevator. Great post.

  2. wils1489

    I think I agree with your second thought more than anything. There is no way that they will be able to pull off an elevator to the space but, so many people think that this will be a reality one day. The people of japan are so confident in this that they claim they will accomplish this task by 2050. Not only will the elevator be built but it will be operational as well. Those are strong accusations to have especially when there is nothing definite to back up these claims. So just like NASA they are trying to find a light weight material that is strong enough to make a long cable but, they believe that carbon nanotubes will make this a reality. Can it really because you mentioned above that Cambridge University pretty much created the same thing.

    There are so many reasons why this dream to build an elevator to space is impossible. This completely goes against the laws of physics. There is no way that this light weight material will be able to support more than its own weight when being extended over an extreme length. What is there to keep this material suspended into the sky? How will this suspended light weight cable fair in extreme weather conditions. There are so many questions that are raised with this topic and is it really safe to have someone board an elevator that goes that high anyway? I honestly hope that this is something that doesn’t succeed because I don’t think that there is any material that would make this a safe process for anyone.

    http://www.gizmag.com/obayashi-space-elevator/21587/

    • I’m afraid I have to disagree with you (previous two commenters) on several points here. Some of them are factual, others are philosophical. First of all, the way in which a space elevator stays stable in space is by being attached to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, likely with the base resting in the ocean, to allow for some amount of movement there. The elevator is therefore like a rope with a weight at the end being spun around. The lightweight material is therefore in tension, not compression, and carbon nanotubes have at least the promise of delivering sufficient weight to strength ratios. The quote from the Cambridge professor refers the the challenge of producing at large scale, and with reasonable economy the same quality material as is produced in the lab. This is not however a fundamental flaw, but a technological one, and it could therefore be overcome by improved fabrication techniques. As for the wish that this not come to fruition because of the dangers. There are dangers associated with pushing boundaries, yet there are tremendous benefits as well. If people had not risked, and even given their lives in the pursuit of new discoveries from medical to astronomical we would not have the comforts and capabilities we have today. A space elevator would do more than allow rich people to vacation on the moon, it could prove vital in tapping new resources such as those found in asteroids (which could provide incredibly rare materials that can be used in applications such as nuclear power) and in allowing economic access to space for a bevy of new experiments, opening the field to lower budget researchers. It’s futurist thinking, but it’s a field that shouldn’t be ignored, and should certainly not be avoided.

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