According to Hong Kong media, a research team at Tsinghua University in China said that they have developed a high-strength fiber that can even be used to build an elevator to space.
According to the Hong Kong "South China Morning Post" website reported on October 26, they said that only 1 cubic centimeter of fiber made of carbon nanotubes can withstand the weight of 160 elephants (more than 800 tons) and will not break, and this The small cable weighs only 1.6 grams.
Wang Changqing, a scientist at the School of Automation at Northwestern Polytechnical University who did not participate in the study, said: "This is a big breakthrough."
According to the report, the team used carbon nanotubes to develop a new type of "ultra-long" fiber, which is said to be stronger than any previous fiber. They obtained the patent for this technology earlier this year and published some of their research in the journal Nature·Nanotechnology.
The team said in the paper: "It is clear that the tensile strength of carbon nanotube bundles is at least 9 to 45 times that of other materials."
They say the material "has a lot of demand in many high-end areas, such as sports equipment, ballistic armor, aerospace and even space elevators."
According to the report, the idea of making an elevator that can enter space from Earth may sound like something in science fiction, but it has existed for more than a century, and scientists have proposed various designs in recent decades.
To date, the concept of space elevators has remained in the field of physical and mathematical models because there is no material of sufficient strength to make the ultra-light and ultra-strong cables required.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says the tensile strength of these cables needs to be no less than 7 gigapascals. In fact, NASA launched a global competition to develop this material in 2005 with a $2 million bonus. But no one has won the award.
Now, the Tsinghua University team headed by Wei Fei, a professor of chemical engineering, said that the newly developed carbon nanotube fibers have a tensile strength of 80 gigapascals.
It is reported that carbon nanotubes are cylindrical molecules composed of carbon atoms, which are connected in a hexagonal shape and have a diameter of only 1 nanometer. Its tensile strength is the highest known in any material, theoretically up to 300 GigaPascals.
Wang Changqing said that in terms of manufacturing space elevator cables, carbon nanotube fibers are currently the most promising candidates, but more calculations and simulations are needed to evaluate their performance.
Wei Fei said that although it may take many years to build an elevator that leads to space, his team is working hard to put this carbon nanotube fiber into mass production for use in defense or other fields. He said, "This may change the rules of the game in many areas," which may be used for military purposes first.
“Many new weapon systems, such as track guns and laser cannons, require high-performance power storage and supply systems,” he said. “Our technology provides a more appropriate solution.”
According to the report, these researchers produced the longest (50 cm) carbon nanotubes in the world in 2013 and recently produced a 70 cm long carbon nanotube.