Friday, March 23, 2007

Picture of the day

LiftPort Concept Anchor

LiftPort Concept Anchor

An ocean anchorage for the Space Elevator.

The subject of research for more than a century, the Space Elevator is a unique way to ferry cargo and people into space. Recent advances in technology, most notably the development of carbon nanotube composites, now appear to make building a space elevator feasible. Initial research reports on building the space elevator that draw upon these discoveries have now been completed. As proposed in these reports, the space elevator will consist of a carbon nanotube composite ribbon stretching some 62,000 miles from earth to space. The elevator will be anchored to an offshore sea platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, and to a small counterweight in space. Mechanical lifters (robotic elevator cars) will move up and down the ribbon, carrying such items as satellites, solar power systems, and eventually people into space.

The Space Elevator is not a tower, or even an elevator shaft. It's just the elevator cable, without even any big motors at the top to pull things up. Vehicles and their payloads have to pull themselves up the cable with their own motors and power supply.

© Copyright LiftPort Group Inc., Bremerton, Wash. (click to see larger version)

See the entire LiftPort Conceptual Engineering Drawings Gallery (Focused on the Space Elevator)

To see the entire series, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

According to Tom Theis, IBM's director of physical sciences, "Nanotubes with diameters of only 1.5 to 2 nanometers possess many times the strength of steel and conduct electricity as both a metal and a semiconductor." Because of these properties, Theis says, "I can't imagine a more aggressive transistor technology right now."

~From: The bootless PC and terabytes on a dime at

"Nanotechnology is about to dramatically change virtually every aspect of how we work, live, and play; in fact the process has already begun. If you've used a UV-blocking sunscreen it may well be 'powered' by nanospheres of titanium dioxide - the opaque stuff of lifeguards' noses - which, in its nano form, happens to be transparent to visible light, but not to UV. Similarly, nanospheres in your toothpaste are (or will soon be) giving you that ultra-bright smile. And Berkeley Lab's 'Materials Sciences Division' has recently demonstrated how to use a new electro-thermal technique on carbon nanotubes to turn them into 'conveyor belts' that move individual atoms to precise targets, potentially forming the basis for far more efficient nanoscale manufacturing."

~Jeffrey R. Harrow From: Life Itself is 'Applied Nanotechnology' at

The Weekly Roundup

Starting this week I will dedicate Friday’s post to a recap of the week’s news that grabbed my attention.

Here are the news bits and press releases that caught my eye this week.

Stealth Inkjet Printer Startup Could Rock Industry – March 22, 2007

"…a nanotech-fueled, consumer inkjet printer that can print sixty pages a second for under $200 has successfully demonstrated the technology. … Company executives have said they feel that they can ship an 8x10 color inkjet by the end of 2008 that will cost less than $200 and print 60 pages a minute."

"The Memjet technology uses a series of individual MEMS-based inkjet nozzles, fabricated using conventional semiconductor manufacturing techniques. Each chip measures 20 millimeters across and contains 6,400 nozzles, with five color channels, the company said. A separate driver chip calculates 900 million picoliter-sized drops per second. For a standard A4 letter printer, the result is a total of 70,400 nozzles."

RR: Two points here: 1) this technology, should it pan out, represents a huge leap in printer capabilities while at the same time a huge decrease in price performance, and 2) it also demonstrates Ray Kurzweil’s now famous Law of Accelerating Returns, which states: "An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth."

Nanotechnology companies team up – March 22, 2007

"The Houston nanotechnology company founded by Rice University Nobel laureate Richard Smalley and a California firm that plans to use nanotubes to build better electronics are merging, the companies will announce today.

The move will unite the world's leading producer of carbon nanotubes, Carbon Nanotechnologies, and Unidym, a company that can use them to make better television, phone and computer screens and other electronics."

RR: Is this the model that will finally put nanotubes on the consumer products map? Perhaps, but considering the number of nanotube manufactures and the fact that not one of them has lived up to the hype regarding price, functionalization and separation, perhaps not. Stay tuned.

Speaking of hype, one final quote from the article "We're at the brink of the really high-value applications" said CNI chief Bob Gower, who likened the world-changing potential of nanotubes to the Internet. "This is truly disruptive technology."

Researcher’s Light Body Armor May Save Soldiers’ Lives – March 22, 2007

"…a composite manufacturing process to create lightweight body armor using nanotubes that protects a soldier's legs, arms and head. Metal traditionally has been used for such protective gear, but lightweight composites materials such as the ones produced by Okoli now can be used in place of heavier metals, he said."

RR: New technologies have always (and seemingly will always) represent a double-edged sword, which can be used in peaceful as well as military applications. In this case, let’s consider the fact that the use of nanotubes will be for saving lives in a time of war, and by extension, in times of peace when used by police forces and civilians.

They did get one thing wrong in the article: "Nanotubes are derived from buckminsterfullerene…" Actually, nanotubes are distinctly different from buckyballs, and are "derived" from sources other than C60 (1) (you don’t use C60 to make nanotubes, although they are both composed of carbon atoms). Nanotubes represent another way that carbon atoms can be arranged; in this case in a tube rather than a sphere. In "science guy" talk, nanotubes are allotropes of carbon (2), and members of the fullerene family, as are buckyballs.

To read the complete articles, see: