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back to article Scientists spin carbon nanotube threads on industrial scale

An international team of scientists has successfully found a way to spin tens of millions of carbon nanotubes into a flexible conductive thread that's a quarter of the thickness of human hair. "We finally have a nanotube fiber with properties that don't exist in any other material," said lead researcher Matteo Pasquali of Rice …

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Anonymous Coward

Marvellous

"It looks like black cotton thread but behaves like both metal wires and strong carbon fibers."

Thuggees will be delighted that the 21st century has something to offer their craft.

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Mushroom

Re: This will change things

The real trick will be when we can go to 4D! ;-)

Dave

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Re: This will change things

>Goes to show going from 0 to 1 to 2 dimensions makes things more useful.

?

Do read something Eadon, anything. Plato might be a good start.

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Pint

Re: This will change things

Damn right it will change things. Besides possibly becoming a viable copper replacement, high-tensile strength materials means we're that much closer to a practical space elevator.

The phrase "industrial scale" fills me with happiness. I want to see spools of this at Hobby Lobby PRONTO.

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Coat

I'll

get my carbon nanotube coat, from M&S

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Space tether time, go go space elevators!

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Last I read, it might, just might be possible to use nanotubes to construct a spave elevator. Would appreciate a link to the latest calculations/estimates though!

Arthur C Clarke (Fountains of Paradise) credits Buckminster Fullerine with playing a hand in the space-elevator concept, so it's pleasing that the only materuial that might make them a reality bears his name.

In the absence of a space elevator, headphone cables that don't fail would be nice.

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Someone downvoted space elevators? Must be a bloke from Virgin Galactic. A space elevator would drive a stake in the heart of their "get gazillionaires to pay a jillion dollars for a brief suborbital trip" business model...

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Childcatcher

Yeah but first you need the gazillionaires to actually finance the thing.

A good example what "savings" are for btw, as opposed to paper money freshly exchanged against bonds at the central bank.

Icon of what is nearest a tall-hat wearing space elevator baron shortly before he is taken down by antitrust for a natural space elevator monopoly. Which we can't have.

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And...

We've got something to tether the shadow squares to.

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Alright...

...don't lose your head.

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Go

Woohoo!

So how far does this move us along the path to a working space elevator?

And on the textile side, what does one cut these threads with?

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Boffin

Re: Woohoo!

probably any run-of-the-mill pair of scissors. They this fiber has incredible tensile strength, that says nothing about shear strength. I did try to look up shear strength numbers, but didn't find any (although I didn't look too hard).

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Meh

Re: Woohoo!

Space elevator might be nice idea, but, a conductor 40,000 KM long, going to an area on edge of charged particle belts and exposed to passing magnetic field bearing plasmas. What interactions could we get here ? Not to mention the charged areas in our atmosphere. Sprites are known to send jets 80km high, so I suspect electronic erosion at atmosphere end might be higher than expected.

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Re: Woohoo!

The voltage difference between each end will be rather impressive. You could probably prevent most of the issues you're thinking of by using it as a power source.

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Re: Woohoo!

@Denarius - Those are probably minor problems compared to the problem of a material strong enough to build a space elevator in the first place. Maybe they can harvest all that energy to power the thing or something.

I do have to admit though I just had a frightening mental image of what would happen if the tether for a space elevator got hit with a bolt of lightning powerful enough to vaporize a few millimeters of it.

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Coat

Re: Woohoo!

Tethers as a power source in space has been explored, and the idea works. Turn a negative into a positive, you might say.

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Pint

Re: Woohoo!

"And on the textile side, what does one cut these threads with?"

I'm sure someone's asking that about the space elevator too...

(I don't want it all ending up in my back garden. The bulbs are starting to grow).

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And for the next trick

They just need to work out an energy efficient method to spin it directly out of CO2 and they'll be able to tackle two problems at once.

Can't wait to see where this trick takes us.

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Full circle

Power the CO2 to nanotube conversion with shale gas. That would provide an overabundance of concentrated source material. The atmosphere is only 0.035% CO2 and the concentration step requires energy.

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Pint

Re: Full circle

"Power the CO2 to nanotube conversion with shale gas."

Power it with what you like - get the CO2 from brewing - Igor, more BEER !

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Power transmission?

More conductive than copper and stronger than steel; makes one wonder if we could string it up on our existing pylons instead of having to erect yet more of them to make a super-grid to cope with renewable energy's fluctuations.

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Re: Power transmission?

IIRC overhead lines (especially transmission lines) use aluminum instead of copper. It's not as efficient but it's efficient enough while being MUCH cheaper.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Power transmission?

Yep. Actually aluminum and steel. Steel core for strength, and Al outer braiding for electrical conduction.

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Holmes

Re: Power transmission?

Also doesn't get stolen by marauding bands of gypsies or hovering UFOs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_resistivity_and_conductivity

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Meh

Re: Power transmission?

And so thin that birds cut themselves on it. Lightening strike and it burns away. One also asks what is used to secure it to support arms to pylons ? Diamonds ? Anything else would be cut thru. One of Nivens or Pournelles stories mentioned the possibility of the local "lads" enjoying putting this stuff up cross alleys with messy and fatal results.

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Re: Power transmission?

They'll destroy it anyway, on the basis that it might have copper in it.

That said, I'm glad a lot of other people thought "Power transmission" as a first application if it can weather the outdoors

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Re: Power transmission?

@Denarius - I suspect there's a slight difference in head-chopping-offability between Niven and Pournelle's single molecules and this bundled stuff...

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@Denarius - "Penny for your thoughts?"

Are you actually thinking about P K Dick? I dimly recall a story of his, where a ferry has it's superstructure sliced off slowly by a monomolecular filament.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Power transmission?

Presumably it'd be easy enough to protect the cables from the elements by encasing them in a sheath?

Conductive as copper, 10 times stronger than steel and probably significantly lighter than aluminium (anyone seen density figures?)... sounds ideal!

I'm thinking BT might be interested too... as they seem to have decided not to bother running optical fibres beyond TC.

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Mushroom

Re: @Denarius - "Penny for your thoughts?"

@Jan 0

Ferries? Pah, kid's stuff. Niven has his slicing huge swathes of countryside and cities, IIRC. Long time since I've read the Ringworld books, though.

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Headmaster

Re: @Denarius - "Penny for your thoughts?"

> Are you actually thinking about P K Dick?

Jeesus. Mixing up John Brunner and PKD?

Really, now.

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Re: Power transmission?

@Denarius: Just because the cables can be thin doesn't mean they must be thin. If you wanted to use these CNT "threads" for high-voltage power transmission, you could easily braid them into a cable of suitable thickness for easy manipulation.

As for protecting against heat damage due to lightening strikes, I suspect that's tractable too. On existing runs, you might keep the existing AL-steel lines up, and run the CNT lines just beneath them on the same pylons. Run the power over the CNT lines and ground the AL-steel ones. They'll take the strikes (or dissipate enough charge that the strike will happen somewhere else, depending on terrain).

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JDX
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Gosh

I thought this was one of those world-changing technological breakthroughs that was always 'just around the corner'. What next, sustainable fusion power? Linux desktop going mainstream?

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Re: Gosh

"Linux desktop going mainstream?"

Whoaaaaa there, steady on, lets not get carried away...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gosh

It's still "just around the corner". No commercially viable process yet. Mainstream Linux computers could easily come first... did you see the article about Lenovo planning Android laptopoids?

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JDX
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Re: Gosh

I think we'll see Fusion before Linuxtops.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gosh

@JDX: I think we'll see Fusion before Linuxtops.

I think that's probably a given. Have you heard of that queer firey orb - said to hang magically in the daytime sky at more southerly climes?

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All we need now .......

...... is room temperature superconductive carbon nanotubes. Five more years?

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Genius!

That is all.

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This is freakin awesome.

I bet F1 teams are looking at this for weaving lighter, stronger composite materials.

I want some of this thread.

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What would Carbon fiber panels look like?

Could you imagine weaving carbon fiber material from this thread?

Sounds interesting.

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Go

I'm a skydiver...

...and I would love for my gear to be made out of this stuff. Stronger than steel and a whole rig weighing 2kg. Awesome!

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Thumb Up

Re: I'm a skydiver...

and we soaring pilots are already using carbon fiber, but it costs. Long threads will make much better spars. Perlan Project might finally be able to build their 300 kmh glider to get to 30,000 meters ! 90,000 feet in old language. A glider where only SR71s used to go. No not a typo, look it up.

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MJI
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Re:Gliders

The most common aircraft at that altitude is basically a glider design with jet engine.

Only others I know of were the SR71 and the EE Lightning

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Boffin

Re: Re:Gliders

"The most common aircraft at that altitude is basically a glider design with jet engine.

Only others I know of were the SR71 and the EE Lightning"

+ MiG-25 Foxbat, built to intercept the U2.

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Pb?

"We finally have a nanotube fiber with properties that don't exist in any other material," said lead researcher Matteo Pasquali

If he's normally researching lead, what qualifies him to talk about carbon?

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Re: Pb?

If he's normally researching lead, what qualifies him to talk about carbon?

For his next breakthrough ... a [carbon nanotube] Zeppelin.

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