My colleague Eliza Strickland over on 80 Beats has a post about researchers who want to build a new world of out of buckypaper, a superstrong material that has applications ranging from an airplane construction material to lightweight display screens.
There’s some online buzz wondering if this material would be strong enough to make the space elevator a reality. If you haven’t heard the term, a space elevator is a cable or ribbon that extends about 100,000 km into space from an anchor point on the equator. Glorified elevators car shuffle cargo and people in and out of orbit, eliminating all that mucking about with dangerous rockets and with the ability to move payloads for a minute fraction of the cost of current boosters. A space elevator could make a lot of big space projects — like orbiting solar power plants — suddenly very doable. The idea was first thought of over a century ago, and most notably popularized by Arthur C. Clarke’s 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise. In recent years, interest was renewed with a new (and much more practical) elevator design pioneered by Brad Edwards .