An article that has been making the rounds recently seems to confirm that GoogleX, once upon a time, was interested in building a Space Elevator. This story has been reported in several outlets but they all seem to come from this story at Fast Company.
Money quote from the article: “The [GoogleX] team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong– ‘at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have,’ by Piponi’s calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter.”
Yes, indeedy, that is the stumbling block. If someone is truly interested in getting closer to the day when a Space Elevator could be built, I would recommend that they invest in Materials Science research; carbon nanotubes, boron-nitride nanotubes, carbyne, it doesn’t matter which one, just as long as the goal is stronger materials.
Many months ago, I contacted Astro Teller, the head of GoogleX, to see if they would be interested in sponsoring a rebirth of the Strong Tether Competition. I thought their (at the time) rumored interest in the Space Elevator coupled with their deep pockets would be a natural fit. Sadly they were not interested. When this article surfaced, I contacted Mr. Teller again and he confirmed that GoogleX is not currently working on this project, sigh.
So, it’s nice to know that they were interested, once upon a time, but we will need to continue to look elsewhere for the breakthough needed to make this project a reality…