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August 25th, 2007
Nanotechnology's the key
To the extent that a space elevator is feasible at all is due to advances in the science of nanotechnology, especially carbon nanotubes. These are atomic-scale threads with a tensile strength greater than steel but with vastly less weight; when bound together, they become unimaginably strong.
The long spine of the proposed elevator would be 30 inches wide but only as thick as a sheet of paper. Wade Adams, a nanotech researcher at Rice University, said nano engineers have created threads 15 percent as strong as those needed for an elevator, and continue to make steady progress. Existing nanotube threads are already triple the strength of the Kevlar strands used in bulletproof vests.
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