May 16, 2009 Issue

Physics To Go 73 - Space tethers/nanotubes

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Physics in Your World

A Tether in Space image
image credit: TSS-1, STS-46 Crew, NASA; image source; larger image

A Tether in Space

The white spherical object is a 1.6 m diameter satellite, part of the Tethered Satellite System-1, launched in 1992 from a boom extending out from the bay of the Space Shuttle. The mission was to generate electricity by dragging the conducting wire through the magnetic field of Earth.

-- To learn more, visit APOD's A Tether in Space.
-- To find out how the test turned out, see The Space Tether Experiment.
-- Clearly a light, strong material is needed for the tether.

(This feature was updated on July 16, 2013.)

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Physics at Home

Nanotubes and Other Forms of Carbon

Check out Nanotubes and Other Forms of Carbon from the University of Wisconsin; the videos there show the forms of carbon: graphite, graphene, diamond, fullerene, and nanotube. For each of these forms, you'll see a model that shows how the carbon atoms fit together.


From Physics Research

Spinning Carbon Nanotubes image
image credit: V. Shanov & M. Schulz; image source; larger image

Spinning Carbon Nanotubes

The photo shows a bundle of nanotubes grown by University of Cincinnati engineers. To see how these nanotubes are spun into thread, and used as a cell phone antenna, see the second video in Spinning Carbon Nanotubes. For more on how the nanotubes were grown, see this National Science Foundation press release.

Worth a Look

A Nanotube Space Elevator

Check out A Nanotube Space Elevator for a video, narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, describing how nanotubes might be used to construct a tether for a space elevator. To see an artist's conception, but without the tether, visit NASA's Space Elevator.

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