'Diamond Nanothreads' Now, Someday Space Elevators?

Penn State University scientists released a research paper last month that showed a way to produce ultra-thin “diamond nanothreads” with a strength and stiffness greater than that of today’s strongest nanotubes and polymers.

John Badding, professor of chemistry at Penn State University, told CNN his team had made the breakthrough while examining the properties of benzene molecules and that it took 18 months of study to make sense of what the team had been seeing.

“It is as if an incredible jeweler has strung together the smallest possible diamonds into a long miniature necklace,” Badding said. “Because this thread is diamond at heart, we expect that it will prove to be extraordinarily stiff, extraordinarily strong, and extraordinarily useful.”

What results is a material that is the strongest and stiffest known to science, but is also very lightweight.

“One of our wildest dreams for the nanomaterials we are developing is that they could be used to make the super-strong, lightweight cables that would make possible the construction of a “space elevator” which so far has existed only as a science-fiction idea,” Badding said.

Cue the reference to one-dimensional diamond in Arthur C. Clarke's 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise:

"...it is a continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal - though it's not actually pure carbon. There are several trace elements in carefully controlled amounts. It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories, where there's no gravity to interfere with the growth process."

(Will Japan build a space elevator?)


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