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jeffolie

The Fountains of Paradise is a 1979 novel by Arthur C. Clarke. Set in the 22nd century, it describes the construction of a space elevator. This orbital "beanstalk" is a giant structure rising from the ground and linking with a satellite in geostationary or Clarke Orbit at the height of approximately 36,000 kilometers. Such a structure would be used to raise payloads to orbit without having to use rockets.

GK

Yes. I am familiar with The Fountains of Paradise. Note that the most popular franchises, like Star Wars and Star Trek, never mention such a method of reaching space.

Also note that Arthur C. Clarke may too be lapsing into linear thinking. He sets the time in the 22nd century, when the people making the elevator are aiming for 2018. Even I say that is too optimistic, but what if they manage it by, say, 2030?

Paul Moore

I'm scientifically illiterate, but so far this projects seems to be building from the ground up. Wouldn't it make more sense to feed the line down from a satellite instead of doing some Indian rope trick with it? Or is this just the testing phase until they figure out the best material for the job.

GK

Paul,

They are probably waiting for the price of carbon nanotubes to drop over the coming several years, while over the same period, can continue to improve on the robots that are sent up the ribbon.

Not only would a 100-mile nanotube ribbon be super-expensive today, but the robots would not be able to climb very high until after years of improvement.

Constant

Few months back I jotted down some thoughts on the cabling and breaking system for the space elevator.

I understand there's a way to build the structure; I'm wondering how the heat and how objects will physically move up and down.

[At the link under my name]

GK

Constant,

Carbon Nanotubes have some pretty amazing properties. As their costs decline over the next 15 years, a few fantastic things can occur that are not possible today.

Brian

"My opinion on whether this goal is possible? It is difficult, and 2018 might be a decade too soon, even if it does succeed"

I am not sure the real challenge is technical. Granted technical problems remain are not minimal.

The real challenge is going to be organizational. How do you organize a company to build a large project in space, then support the infrastructure when it's done? There are good models for this in terrestrial environments - FedEx, any of the large freight lines and so on.


"Yes. I am familiar with The Fountains of Paradise. Note that the most popular franchises, like Star Wars and Star Trek, never mention such a method of reaching space."

That always bothered me. Great, spaceships, large mucking habitats. HOW did you get there?


"Yes. I am familiar with The Fountains of Paradise. Note that the most popular franchises, like Star Wars and Star Trek, never mention such a method of reaching space."

In 'Fountains' the engineer in charge says space elevators weren't possible until the orbital fabs were capble of producing the unobtanium (my word not his).

Which points out hte point above - if you've got orbital fabs you've solved the 'getting to space cheaply' problem.


"I'm scientifically illiterate, but so far this projects seems to be building from the ground up. Wouldn't it make more sense to feed the line down from a satellite instead of doing some Indian rope trick with it? Or is this just the testing phase until they figure out the best material for the job."

If you're talking about HALE (our system tested in the desert) then the point is being missed. Which says something about our message not getting out.

HALE exists to

a) test technologies and concepts for sending lifters up and down ribbon.
b) to provide short-term revenue to Liftport Group by servicing aerostats

the inventor

Dear Fellow Scientist,

NASA's rocket technology not for real space exploration but here is one.

Sir, don't be dismayed to see how little information there is on the internet. Despite that, I hope you totally understand my need for anonymity. Assuming that the technology is as effective as I say it is, releasing it to the public in all its splendor could make the world think that a) I am off my rocker, b) that I'm completely wrong or c) just some sci-fi aficionado who's gone a bit too far.

Sad state of affairs, but hey, that's the price of true innovation right?

http://nlspropulsion.net

Regards,

The Inventor

ams

Carbon nanotubes are the "miracle material" of today's popular future. But they might not make it in terms of allowing a space elevator. The space elevator may just be barely possible with the *microscopic* properties of the nanotubes, but any elevator will have to be assembled from a *macroscopic* material, which is always much weaker than the individual grains. In the case of nanotubes, they tend to slip against each other, working against their tensile strength. Furthermore, anything you construct CE wise will need a safety factor larger than 1.0000001. 10-50 is typical.

Geoman

And here we are in 2019 - still no obvious uses for carbon nanotubes.

They remind me a little of the laser - discovered in 1954-1960, they were laughed at as a "solution in search of a problem." Hard to believe today, but after their discovery it took decades before anyone found anything to use them for. Really up until the late 1970s, early 1980s. And even then their uses were not things we had previously imagined (ray guns, cutting things). Instead they primary use was in communications. heck their very first commercial use was as bar code readers. Boring stuff.

Carbon nanotubes have been used so far as....bulk nanotube materials in composite fibers in polymers to improve the mechanical, thermal and electrical properties of the bulk product. Boring stuff mostly that slightly improves performance of certain materiels.

By its own merits, carbon nanotubes have been successful; especially from an academic perspective. But they faltered when compared to their expected potential. A lot of money was invested into carbon nanotubes and the lack of commercial outputs led to a stagnation of investment.

So, as with the laser. Too much hype and a collapse in expectations. the laser lag (as I like to call it) seemed to be based on working out the kinks in creating cheap, reliable lasers. It was just a lot harder than anyone imagined.

The problem is mass production of long strand carbon nanotubes. The longest carbon nanotubes commercially made so far are about 12-millimeters long, and not sure they are completely perfect. Also in getting them to align, or placing them precisely.

Recently Samsung solved the problem of efficient dispersion and alignment of the individual carbon nanotubes. They say they are incorporating them into some commercial products. 2006-2019 what is that, 13 years? As I say, the laser took, 15-20 years to become commercially viable, and maybe 30 years to become ubiquitous.

So, let's see...carbon nanotubes....I'm going out on a limb and saying 2026--2030 is when we start seeing a lot of the promised potential come to fruition. But it won't be what most people think - the technology will show up in a lot of strange places no one expected. probably in the background somewhere.

Kartik Gada

Geoman,

Yes. Note that carbon molecular structures outside of nanotubes have found uses, such as Graphene.

Part of the delay is that there is less pressure to use nanotubes for computing, which was the primary anticipated use for them when viewed from 2006.

Geoman

The problem in search of a solution became the solution in search of a problem! Ha!

But that is a fair point to make - there is a set amount of research dollars that can get spent each year. Without a tangible problem that can be solved profitably, and a clear pathway to advancement, those dollar drift off elsewhere, and progress slows. Right now, from a materials science perspective, batteries are likely sucking up every spare R&D dollar on the planet. Probably will continue to do so for the next 10 years now that batteries are in cars, and their energy storage capacity has such a huge influence on sales. But once electric cars reach a 500 mile range on a charge, further improvements might not seem so attractive...and the money will drift elsewhere.

Kartik Gada

This is true. Note that batteries are one of the biggest ATOM disruptions underway at present (measured in dollar impact). It may very well consume a lot of R&D resources for years to come, with the end result that ICE vehicles are almost fully obsolete.

Carbon - they keep finding new types of molecules with new names. Which one creates the breakthrough disruption is still anyone's guess. When Graphene emerged, almost all mention of nanotubes and buckyballs stopped.

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