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Space elevator
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B
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Space elevator - September 19, 2006, 03:14 PM

http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/space/0...tor/index.html

...now we're getting close with the advances in creating carbon nanotubes. To the naked eye it would appear semi-transparent and no thicker than that width of a pencil, yet would be incredibly strong and light

The race is already on to develop a working prototype climber. Teams from across the world are set to compete for the $400,000 first prize in the Space Elevator Games at the X Prize Cup this October in Las Cruces, New Mexico.


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September 19, 2006, 03:21 PM

That's someinteresting stuff right ther....

I think just the idea and future uses of the nanotubing being so strong is more useful than the actual space application though.


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September 19, 2006, 03:28 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_nanotube


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September 19, 2006, 03:28 PM

cool


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September 19, 2006, 03:29 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by NoVaGhost
I think just the idea and future uses of the nanotubing being so strong is more useful than the actual space application though.
Like the worlds lightest strongest motorcycle frame?


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September 19, 2006, 03:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by zx6rfool
Like the worlds lightest strongest motorcycle frame?
ah great minds, great minds...


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September 19, 2006, 06:08 PM

nice read, dont think it will have to much of a future. but at the same time i really hope im wrong.


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September 19, 2006, 07:37 PM

I majored in Areospace eng in College (Yeah, yeah, I am a real rocket scientist) and I had a couple of classes where we we discussed this concept. I think it is the best option available and very feasable. But becuse it has been the stuff of scifi its almost impossible for anyone working on this to get funding.


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September 19, 2006, 08:10 PM

Upper atmosphere winds of several hundred mph wouldn't be an issue?


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September 19, 2006, 08:32 PM

Very interesting idea.
Kinda reminds me of back in the day when no one would ever think it possible to send a man to the moon in a real, live "space-shuttle."


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September 19, 2006, 08:48 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by SVbadguy
Upper atmosphere winds of several hundred mph wouldn't be an issue?
Believe or not, no. It is the same idea as spinning a bucket of water over your head. The force of the earth rotating and the two anchor points keep the ladder tight and allow for limited sway (limited however could be alot, it's a relative thing). It's been a few years since college but from what I remember the force of the space anchor moving in orbit counteracts the force of gravity to keep it on station in orbit. The anchor point will sway back and forth a bit but the force will keep it from moving much. It would take a hell of a wind to push the ladder enough to over come the force of orbital velocity, which is something like Mach 26, or 19,000 miles an hour, give or take a mile or two. I think the two biggest problems they were facing were 1) finding something strong enough to make the ladder (which has been solved) and 2) connecting the two anchor points together (which I seem to remember they were suggesting to use a large magnet at the gound anchor and the end of the ladder which will be lowered from space. I can't wait to see how they pull this off.
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September 19, 2006, 09:16 PM

It's an intriguing idea, and could work one day. A year ago, I was in the middle of a carbon nanotube project here at MIT. What the article doesn't mention is that carbon nanotubes, with present manufacturing techniques, cost roughly $1M/kg to produce in small quantities. Then consider that the longest ones my lab ever grew were ~1cm long (most of them were in the micron range... 1x10^-6m). Granted, we weren't terribly concerned with length and were operating on a shoestring budget compared to lots of commercial people, but it's tough. For you environmentally and safety conscious people out there, we were growing these things in a mixture of hydrogen and acetylene at ~800degC (!!).

Nanotubes are fun and have all sorts of interesting applications. One of my favorites, which a friend of mine works on, is the single nanotube transistor. Instead of using doped silicon to make a semiconductor, you can use a damn near superconducting nanotube and do the same thing on a much smaller scale with far less power dissipation (the thing that limits computer performance...).

Anyway, don't expect much any time soon, but we could possibly live to see this.
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September 19, 2006, 09:24 PM

There is a great article here about the space elevator concept.
http://www.seed.slb.com/en/scictr/wa...ator/build.htm

http://www.liftport.com/ is the only company I know of who is actually in business to do this.


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September 20, 2006, 08:03 AM

A few years ago this guy told me about this type of elevator. I thought he was joking. Good stuff.
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September 20, 2006, 08:08 AM

Also, you can technically make a space elevator out of ANY material...just the taper gets out of control. For instance, even for carbon-nanotubes, the taper is around 10,000 : 1 (so the ribbon is about 10ft wide at geosynchronous orbit (the midpoint), and about 1" wide at the ground). If you used steel, the taper is about 100,000,000 to 1 (so, 1000ft wide at the top, 1" wide at the bottom...clearly impossible.

Turns out while carbon-nanotubes are the ultimate material for this type of application, plain graphite fiber would work better in the near-term simply because its available cheaper, in larger quantities, and is easier to manufacture out of C-type asteroids (since you build the eleveator in GEO, and extend both the top and bottom halves simultaneously).

One way to reduce the required taper is to use whats called a "skyhook"--same principle. Imagine a much shorter cable...at a lower orbit (say 1000 miles), the cable is 2000 miles long, and spinning "backwards" since the middle of the cable is in orbit at a speed of ~17500mph (sorry jedi, LEO orbital speed is a little below 20kmph), if the tip of the cable is moving at the same speed, when the cable end rotates down to earths surface, its not moving relative to earth...meaning you can just (in the instant its there) attach a payload and zip...it gets flinged up into space...turns out as long as you bring down more than you take up, it rotates forever (see R.L. Forward's novel "Timemaster" for a fictional description, and "indistinguishable from magic" by the same author for a non-fiction description of the same concept, as well as normal space elevators, and other interesting future phenomenon)

if you want really radical stuff, google "supermundane planets" and look for an article in analog about building dyson spheres using dynamic compression structures (which are interesting onto themselves)

-m


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