M5 fiber exists now. It is a “designer” fiber, carefully engineered over a 10-year period. It is currently the strongest bulk fiber. Carbon nanotubes have not been able to translate their full strength. M5 will have about 9.5 GPa of strength about one fifth of what carbon nanotubes could potentially have.
A pilot plant should have begun producing M5 fiber in April or May of 2005. When fully operational, the plant’s production capacity will be between 20 and 60 metric tons of fiber per year.
Table 1: Candidate materials for high strength projects like space elevators
Building Material Stress Breaking
Material Density limit Height
ρ, kg/m3 σ, GPa σ/ρg, km
SWCN* 2266 50 2200
T1000G† 1810 6.4 361
Zylon‡ PBO 1560 5.8 379
Spectra¶ 2000 970 3.0 316
M5** 1700 5.7 342
M5 planned 1700 9.5 570
Kevlar†† 49 1440 3.6 255
* Single-wall carbon nanotubes (lab measured)
† Toray carbon fiber
‡ Aramid, Ltd. polybenzoxazole fiber
¶ Honeywell extended chain polyethylene fiber
** Magellan honeycomb-like 3-D polymer
†† DuPont aramid fiber
Gecko tape article from 2003 The manmade gecko tape could allow people to walk on walls and ceilings
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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