One of the things which I should be able to accomplish at the upcoming EuroSpaceward Conference is to finally meet Dr. Boris Yakobson. He is a professor of material science, mechanical engineering and chemistry and works out of the Smalley Institute (yes, that Smalley) at Rice University. Rice University has its own unique way of processing carbon nanotubes and that will be fascinating to hear about.
Dr.’s Yakobson and Smalley also discussed carbon nanotubes as a material possibly strong enough to build a space elevator in their paper Fullerene Nanotubes: C1,000,000 and Beyond, published by American Scientist in August of 1997. Money quote from this paper:
In a 1978 science-fiction novel called Fountains of Paradise Arthur Clarke described a strong filament or cable being lowered from a geosynchronous satellite and used by the engineers of the future to move things up and down from earth-a space elevator. Let’s ignore for a moment the tremendous problems involved-atmospheric turbulence, the Coriolis forces, the ravages of ozone and radiation up there-and think about how strong such a cable should be. It takes freshman college physics to figure that the tension in a cable is proportional to its specific gravity ? = 1.3, a square of the earth radius R, and a simple integral: ?(1/r 2 – r/R s 3)dr. The integral spans 22,300 miles all the way from the ground to the synchronous orbit, accumulates a lot and produces a strength requirement of 63 gigapascals. As speculative as it is, the story benchmarks this number. None of the materials now known to humankind get close to such strength. Fullerene cables someday may.
I’m very much looking forward to meeting him.