New diamond nanothreads may let scientists build space elevator

New diamond nanothreads may let scientists build space elevator

Artist rendition of how a space elevator would look like.

American scientists from Penn State University have discovered how to produce ultra-thin diamond nanothreads, a sort of strong carbon nanotubes, which could prove to be stronger and hardier element currently available.

Research team leader, John V. Badding, said the discovery could be the key to building a space elevator for humankind to reach the stars.

Such a gadget could potentially allow earthlings to make it into orbit without the use of rocket ships. The problem with this idea is that space scientists don’t currently have any substance sufficiently both strong and light enough to make that sort of crane, which so far has existed only as a science-fiction idea.

New diamond nanothreads may let scientists build space elevator

Diamond nanothreads. Image courtesy of Penn State University.

“One of our wildest dreams for the nanomaterials we are developing is that they could be used to make the super-strong, lightweight cables,” Badding said in a press release.

"From a fundamental-science point of view, our discovery is intriguing because the threads we formed have a structure that has never been seen before," he added. “It is as if an incredible jeweller has strung together the smallest possible diamonds into a long miniature necklace.”

New diamond nanothreads may let scientists build space elevator

Diamond nanothreads. Image courtesy of Penn State University.

More down-to-earth applications of these new, ultra light, super-strong nanothreads include the making of fuel-efficient vehicles.

The team hopes to further their research by experimenting with adding other atoms to the nanothread to create liquids and make other materials, as the experts explain in their paper, recently published by the journal Nature.

Watch John Badding, professor of chemistry at Penn State University, explaining the results of his research: