Space elevators are the pie-in-the-sky solution to all of humanity's space access problems. Instead of playing Aerosmith as we haphazardly blast our way to the surface of one asteroid or another, we could listen to the sweet sounds of elevator muzak as we reach orbit in perfect safety. It's an idea that many have decried as out-and-out sci-fi nonsense, but don't tell the engineers at Google X that.
Rich DeVaul, head of Google X's Rapid Evaluation team, recently went on record that Google had indeed looked into the creation of a space elevator. In fact, DeVaul and his team seem to have whipped up a space elevator design that would, in his words, "take you from ground to orbit with a net of basically zero energy." That's a pretty amazing result.
The news isn't entirely good, however. As quick as it was designed, Google X's space elevator was put on ice. The reason: material science hasn't caught up with the project's needs quite yet. As we've heard before, the elevator's cable would need to be an order of magnitude stronger than anything modern steel can accomplish. As others have realized, Google X came up with the idea that carbon nanotubes would foot the bill quite nicely.
Unfortunately, since the longest carbon nanotube yet to be constructed is only about a meter long, space is pretty much out for the time being. That being said, once carbon nanotube technology matures (and it'll probably be a while), Google just might defrost its grandiose space elevator plans and give us all that cheap access to orbit that we've been dreaming of.
Via Fast Company