Apparently a scientists has noticed a critical setback for building a space elevator. The problems lies not in the overall layout of the space elevator, but rather its nanotube building blocks.
(Nature) Is it possible to make a cable for a space elevator out of carbon nanotubes? Not anytime soon, if ever, says Nicola Pugno of the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy. Pugno's calculations show that inevitable defects in the nanotubes mean that such a cable simply wouldn't be strong enough. [...]
Laboratory tests have shown that individual nanotubes can withstand an average of about 100 GPa, an unusual strength that comes courtesy of their crystalline structure. But if a nanotube is missing just one carbon atom, this can reduce its strength by as much as 30%. And a bulk material made from such tubes is even weaker. Most fibres made from nanotubes have so far had a strength much lower than 1 GPa.
Pugno goes on to state that even if we were able to produce perfect nanotubes, they could (over time) be corroded by oxygen molecules and micrometers from space. When asked whether or not a Space Elevator could be built, Pugno replied, "With the technology available today? Never." There are some however who disagree.
(Nature) [Bradley] Edwards, who is president and founder of the Dallas-based company Carbon Designs, shrugs off the controversy, and says that with adequate funding he could make cables at or above the 62-GPa benchmark in just three years. He suggests that the key step is carefully spinning long nanotubes together in a close-packed way, which encourages cooperative frictional forces that make the strengths of individual nanotubes less crucial.
What many people fail to realize is that the concept of a Space Elevator is still in its infancy. Current technology (including Edwards proposed method) may not be adequate enough to construct an elevator reaching towards the heavens, but we should never rule out future technology to resolve the issue.
Although debate about the possibilities of a Space Elevator are great, we must remember that a construct like this may take decades to build and it would be silly to expect something like this to be finished within a short few years.
The purpose of the Space Elevator is to benefit future generations, not just the near present and if we become impatient because our brains can not rack up a solution tomorrow then we might as well not even try to go back to the moon.
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