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

By JonnyDough on 1/6/2009 7:05:49 PM , Rating: 2
A cable will add substantial weight and is quite impractical. This idea will never work, nor will it ever happen. Some sort of maglev is more likely, or maybe using a light gas to slowly lift the vehicle in combo with something else, is much more practical. I imagine a really light gas would work well to raise it up to a certain height, and then pumping that gas into a central tube on the tower to provide more pressure would be able to jet the vehicle once it reaches a certain point. The lightest weight, most efficient and SLOW method of raising the elevator is obviously going to be the way it works. If this thing ever does get off the ground, it will most likely take DAYS to reach the top, not minutes. The transport vehicle has to be pressurized as well. This will be THE engineering feat of mankind.

I really believe that some sort of a balloon with a light weight gas, which is then used to pressure lift the elevator once in the lighter atmosphere is the most likely way this will be done.

RE: Impractical.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/6/2009 7:33:09 PM , Rating: 2
The entire concept of a Space Elevator is impractical itself.

RE: Impractical.
By JonnyDough on 1/7/2009 12:05:27 AM , Rating: 2
Not necessarily. I think it is possible...but the whole "tethered to the ground" thing is pretty crazy. People think elevator and they automatically think cables. A cable of that proportion could never support it's own weight. A tower itself (tower of Babel ring a bell?) would come crashing down too. No wonder everyone started speaking in tongues, the impact would create an earthquake that would leave the brain's language center all jumbled. Obviously, any space elevator would have to be connected to the moon, and built from both ends. In fact, we'd be more likely to accidentally pull the moon into earth than anything. Maybe you're right. Maybe this is just another stupid idea. Quantum mechanics has a better chance to offer a solution of swapping the properties of particles in two different places than a space elevator ever has of coming to fruition. You know, like a worm hole/warp gate or what have you. I'd look to the particle accelator/collider scientists to come up with a way to get people and objects to space before I expect an elevator.

RE: Impractical.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/7/2009 5:55:03 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't say the idea of a Space Elevator is stupid. But yes, I believe for the here and now, its a bit.... much.

The metalurgical requirements alone for a project of that scope isn't anywhere NEAR possible.

I have never been a doomsayer, but yes, as you say there could be unforeseen consequences of such an Elevator as well. Not to mention the very real threat that a small meteor or something could impact it with disastrous results.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
Related Articles

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
No More Turtlenecks - Try Snakables
September 19, 2016, 7:44 AM
ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment in Children: Problem or Paranoia?
September 19, 2016, 5:30 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM

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