Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nanotubes to the Future?

How many companies have attempted to break through into the nanotube market, I wonder.

One problem is ramping up the nanotube production while bringing down the impurities and reducing defects. Another problem that needs to be addressed is creating defectless nanotubes of sufficient length that they can be woven together. Thus far, none of the centennial challenges teams have been able to overcome those two core issues. If they can pull that off, the near term applications are far more exciting to me personally than the idea of a space elevator.

The military and commercial applications of super strong fibers are extensive (to put it mildly). This new weaving method Cambridge has come up with looks promising. I could obviously poke a number of holes into this reporter's assumptions about space, but those aren't my focus. Toss everything he says about space in the garbage, because most of it is inaccurate, and skip to the second page about the nanotubes. That's where the good stuff happens.

Could this be the breakthrough that we've been waiting for?

Update: Brian Wang over at the Lifeboat Foundation is also covering this in his blog.

2 comments:

RB said...

I agree that space elevators are not "that next big thing" and probably won't ever be. Nanotubes do have a lot of exciting properties though. Anything regular carbon fiber can do, the tubes can do better, and they have a lot of unique properties, including electrical ones, too.

James Rogers said...

Oh I agree on the nanotubes. Up until now I would have also considered space elevators to be a thing of fantasy. That just changed. I may relegate it back to that domain depending on the capabilities of these new woven strands and how they can hold up to the ionizing radiation and cosmic rays present in the space environment. Figuring that out will take years and a sample mounting trip to the outside of an orbital facility.