Carbon Nanotubes Can’t Handle a Space Elevator

Alright, space elevator plans are back to square one, people. Carbon nanotubes probably aren’t going to be our material solution for a space elevator, because apparently even a minuscule (read: atomic) flaw in the design drastically decreases strength.

Researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic Institute figured out that even a single atom out of place in the structuring of a carbon nanotube reduces the strength of the structure by dozens to factors.

And that’s a serious problem, since it’s very hard to create large-scale sections of carbon nanotubes without a single flaw.

Obviously, ensuring that a space-elevator sized volume of carbon nanotubes is totally flawless would take…well, it would be rather time consuming.

So either current production processes need drastic improvement, or we need a new strategy for this elevator.

Either way, back to square one.

Published in Popular science.

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