The idea of an elevator that could transport humans into space with ease has long been a fantasy of science fiction writers. However, a new form of carbon ribbon could actually make it possible.
Motivated by a $4 million funding prize from NASA, the team at Cambridge University developed a light, flexible ribbon that is believed to be the world's strongest. Currently, the team is producing 1 gram of the material per day, enough to stretch to 18 miles in length. According to Alan Windle, professor of materials science at Cambridge, NASA wants 144,000 miles of the stuff—but he notes that it would take an industrial level of production to make that happen.
Still, this once preposterous idea is actually gaining some traction. The Japanese have already seriously considered making one out of carbon nanotubes and some believe that this new project could get the job done in as little as a decade. I'm not buying that—but I'm still keeping an open mind. [Times Online via io9]