27 November 2015 News

Space Elevator Could be Made out of Diamonds

It's an idea that sounds like something out of science-fiction, but researchers from Penn State University believe it may be possible to create an elevator from the Earth to the Moon using...diamonds.

A new way of producing ultra-thin diamond nanothreads has recently been discovered by the team led by chemistry professor John Badding at Penn State University (USA). Badding used alternating cycles of pressure on liquid-state benzene molecules and found that rings of carbon created by the process systemically came together into chains. As many great scientific discoveries, these results were unanticipated – the researchers expected the benzene molecules to remain disorganized, but instead created what can possibly end up being the strongest material ever produced by man. And yet, strong as they are, each of these nanothreads is 20,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. The material's unique characteristics (incredibly light yet strong) may make it an ideal material for a space elevator.

The concept of a space elevator was first proposed in 1895 by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who claimed to have been inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Tsiolkovsky had suggested that a similar tower could be built for reaching into space. The concept was subsequently developed into the space elevator idea – a space transportation system that would use a cable anchored on Earth and reach out beyond geostationary orbit. Gravitational and centrifugal forces would then ensure that the cable held up and remained stationary. Such an elevator could then be used to deliver cargo into orbit without the need for rockets. Nanothreads specifically could be ideal for this use.

Another team of researchers, at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia conducted a series of molecular dynamics simulations and came to the conclusion that diamond nanothread material is more versatile than was previously known and could be used for a myriad of needs in advancing aerospace technology.

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