A new fiber, developed by a research team in Beijing, China could be strong enough to make a space elevator possible.
According to South China Morning Post, the team from Tsinghua University built a fiber from carbon nanotube that they say is “stronger than anything seen before.” They say 1 cm3 of the fiber wouldn’t break under the weight of 160 elephants (more than 800 t). In addition to being strong, a piece of cable that size would only weigh 1.6 g.
Ideas for a space elevator have been floating around for more than a century but the idea has never made it past physical and mathematical models because no material has been found that is strong enough to build the unit.
One of the main theories for a space elevator would involve sending a large satellite into orbit that would lower a cable to the ground and be anchored. Another cable would go in the opposite direction to serve as a counterweight. The lift would then, theoretically, be suspended between the two cables, pulled taut by gravity and centrifugal force.
The new fiber is the first that may be strong enough to make the space elevator a reality, but for now, it’s too soon to tell.