Can diamond nanothreads help mankind build a space elevator?

23 September 2014, 9:16 am EDT By Jan Dizon Tech Times
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Researchers have been able to develop a diamond nanothread that may one day make dreams of space travel via science-fiction like space elevators possible.  ( Kim Alaniz )

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, or so the saying goes. Soon they may be used to create ultra-strong nanothreads that can make space elevators of science-fiction into reality.

Researchers behind this breakthrough discovery have been working with compressed benzene to weave incredibly fine, yet tremendously stiff and durable string that can withstand the pressures that space elevator cables would have to endure.

According to a paper published in Nature Materials, scientists have essentially created a long, microscopic sized necklace of nano-sized diamonds that can be extremely versatile and useful not only in space travel, but also for other purposes like fuel-efficient, lightweight vehicles on earth.

According to John Badding, the research team's leader and chemistry professor at Penn State, the diamond nanothread that they developed is composed of atoms that are linked in all three dimensions and linked again to four other carbon atoms forming a tetrahedron. It is the same feature that makes diamond the hardest substance known to man.

It is the extra thickness in this type of carbon nanothread that gives it the extra strength needed where today's nano-tubes and polymers have failed. Other polymers currently being experimented on to make nanothreads are only composed of one line of linked carbon atoms.

"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," Badding said of his team's development.

Although others have been trying for a century to create carbon nanothreads, his team finally succeeded in making a 6 mm wide amount. They discovered that they needed to release the pressure on the molecules at room temperature after sufficient compression time in order to allow the carbon atoms to link and bond together to make the strong tetrahedrons to form the diamond nanothread.

The team hopes to further their research by experimenting with adding other atoms to the nanothread to create other liquids and make other materials.

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