Print 86 comment(s) - last by Gestahl.. on Jan 14 at 3:24 AM

European Space Agency engineer Age-Raymond Riice as developed a remarkably simple way to propel a space elevator upward with a series of rhythmic jerks.  (Source: BBC)
A new method could help realize dreams of a space elevator

A space elevator has been a long standing dream of many in the science and tech community.  Conceived by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1895 and popularized by author Arthur C. Clarke, many believe the idea holds a great deal of real world promise, and may eventually provide the cheapest way to transport people and goods into space.  With many countries such as Japan, the ESA, and the U.S. finally getting serious in a race to become the first nation to develop a space elevator, enthusiasm is at a high.

Unfortunately, though, much of the materials and methods needed to build such an elevator are infeasible.  While carbon nanotubes could allow for a cable strong enough to hold a space elevator in theory, one key problem is how to propel the elevator along the cables into space.

Among the previously suggested methods of powering the climber into space were beaming microwave or laser power, or even concentrated solar power to the climber; but all these efforts have a long ways to go before being close to being feasible.

However, a remarkably simple idea proposed at the Second International Conference on Space Elevator and Tether Design in Luxembourg could hold the key to powering the space elevator.  European Space Agency ground station engineer Age-Raymond Riise showcased a remarkably simple propulsion method which uses a series of rhythmic jerks to propel a device upwards along a taut cable.

For his demo he tied brushes with their bristles pointing down, representing the elevator cabs around the broom stick, representing the elevator cable.  As the brushes pointed downward, they required less force to slide up than to slide down.  The assembly slid up and down along the broomstick, but experienced a net upwards motion, slowly climbing to the top of the broomstick.

The novel new method holds great promise as similar jerking motion could be applied to raise the elevator on a full-sized design, in theory.  The key technical challenge would be designing a cable strong enough to withstand the heat and forces exerted on it by the atmosphere. 

However, advocates argue that with payload costs still remarkably high, the financial and social incentives for building a space elevator are enormous.

Building a space elevator could enable novel new industries.  Describes Benoit Michel of the Catholic University of Leuven, a conference attendee, "From my point of view, the space elevator project is important because it enables a far more directly useful project - installation of large space solar power satellites around the Earth to provide continuous, cheap, CO2-neutral, environmentally friendly energy.  I firmly believe that the next century will have a large space-based industry and that industry will be the main energy provider for the whole mankind."

Mr. Riise has been approached by commercial aerospace terms about his idea and is in talks with them over terms.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: A bit misleading
By Sanity on 1/6/2009 2:00:49 PM , Rating: 3
Since you're being serious, I'll make a serious reply myself.

How about, when we come up with a cable strong enough, we give it the capability to expand and contract in a way that would increase and decrease the diameter of the cable itself. This would create a sort of wave that a car could ride up or down. Kind of like how our intestines push food around, but on the outside. I mean hey, if we're making carbon cables that are thousands of miles long, why not.

RE: A bit misleading
By 2uantuM on 1/6/2009 2:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Why not just make the cable have a core made of some conductive metal (for power),surrounded by carbon fiber (and possibly some insulation, and then more conductive metal around the outside for ground? Sort of like a giant coax cable. The just cut a slit up the side so the elevator can get easy access to the power and then use a motor to work its way up.

RE: A bit misleading
By Sanity on 1/6/2009 3:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
Seems to me that just the motor added to the car would add weight you don't need. Let alone adding thousands of miles of metal in the cable itself. And sending power over thousands of miles of cable is not easy. If the elevator idea were that easy, we wouldn't be reading stories like this. We'd be reading about how over-budget the project was already.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki