It continues a line of prototype devices created at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering that can perform the electronic operations now usually handled by silicon chips using carbon nanotubes and metal nanowires set in indium oxide films, and can potentially do so at prices competitive with those of existing technologies.
Its creators believe the device points the way to further applications, such as flexible power supply components in “e-paper” displays and conformable products.
Space elevator prospects have improved with the development by Cambridge scientists of a method for creating longer, less brittle carbon nanotubes by combining multiple nanotube strands:
Currently, the Cambridge team can make about 1 gram of the new carbon material per day, which can stretch to 18 miles in length. Alan Windle, professor of materials science at Cambridge, says that industrial-level production would be required to manufacture NASA’s request for 144,000 miles of nanotube. Nevertheless, the web-like nanotube material is promising.
“The key thing is that the process essentially makes carbon into smoke, but because the smoke particles are long thin nanotubes, they entangle and hold hands,” Windle said. “We are actually making elastic smoke, which we can then wind up into a fiber.”
Also worth checking out some of the alternatives to traditional space elevators that aren’t so demanding of tensile strength, like Keith Lofstrom’s launch loop, an electromagnetically “inflated” orbital launch system. [thanks to Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers)]
It’ll be fun to see which of these designs actually gets off the ground: just as long as they don’t get off the ground then return unexpectedly.
No need to worry about the potential toxicity of carbon nanotubes making their way into the food chain any more; researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have discovered that nanotubes are biodegraded in the presence of a natural enzyme found in horseradish. That’s one less thing to beef about, then. [via KurzweilAI]
I have already made my feelings clear on the impending scourge of carbon nanotubes. However it seems that my dire warnings are being ignored and hubristic scientists are continuing to portray these evil molecules as the world-saver I will continue to claim they are not:
One of the most promising applications for carbon nanotube membranes is sea water desalination. These membranes will some day be able to replace conventional membranes and greatly reduce energy use for desalination.
Oh the humanity! How can we stop the perfidious spread? I for one will refuse to drink any nanotube desalinated water for fear of impurification of my precious bodily fluids! &c [flickr image by cursedthing]
So those cancer-causing nanotubes that people are raving about (wait, are they?) might be combined with the vast supply of dust and debris on the moon to make a new kind of concrete for structures on the moon. It seems like a workable idea, though, and the cost of structures would be very minimal. NASA’s idea is to build telescopes, satellite arrays, and other equipment on the moon and utilize this new “concrete” for those purposes. Considering all the material is readily available, it doesn’t really take much to conceive of a science station up there. Or a moon colony – oh, now that’s exciting.