Results from the 2010 Strong Tether Challenge

In a word, disappointing.  No team’s entry seriously challenged for the prize.  No team’s entry performed even to 10% of what was needed to win the prize.  Even with three teams entering carbon-nanotube or carbon-nanotube-reinforced entries, no visible, forward progress was made.

However, in another sense, progress WAS made.  Because of the way that the rules have been modified (i.e, to allow entries much shorter than was previously required), this allowed less-expensive tethers to be built.  And because of this, we had multiple, carbon-nanotube based entries this year, a first.  And there is every reason to believe that these teams will be back next year with a better product and, hopefully, with additional competitors.

One item of note; after the third or fourth tether entry was tested, Yuri Artsutanov (who was there to witness the competition) offered his tie as an entry…

It’s truly amazing how hard this is.  It’s truly amazing how hard it is to find someone who wants to build a carbon nanotube tether (let alone enter it into a competition).  I, personally, had tried to find competitors for this year’s competition and found it to be next to impossible.  There are several companies and universities out there making carbon nanotubes, but they, almost universally, are ‘in it’ for the electrical and other, non-strength related properties of carbon nanotubes.  One would think that the prize money and/or potential market for super-strong materials should be enough to spur development, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.  And the NASA rules precluding non-US-based entries certainly does not help.

But someone, somewhere, someday is going to do this.  All the physics point to this as being possible.  In the meantime, we’re all waiting as fast as we can…

So, until 2011…

23AUG10 Update – Andy Petro from the NASA Centennial Challenges program corrects me by pointing out that the rule precluding any non-US teams competing for prize money is a rule set by Congress, not by NASA. He also points out that non-US teams are welcome to compete, they just won’t be eligible to win any of the Prize Money. My apologies to Andy and NASA and thank you for setting the record straight.

4 thoughts on “Results from the 2010 Strong Tether Challenge

  1. Aaron

    It’ll happen, but its going to take strong-willed people to really bring it to fruition. Patience!

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