China has carbon nanotube bundles in the lab that are 20 times stronger than kevlar. They are trying to scale them up for mass production. If they succeed in mass producing tons of this material then what has been impossible become possible engineering. Superstrong materials were the key part of molecular nanotechnology speculation.
Carbon nanotube bundles could replace diamondoid in previous molecular nanotechnology speculation.
The engineering that is possible with higher power densities is changing from Chevy Volt power density to jet engine and nearly jet fuel power density. It is also changing the material to nearly diamond levels of strength to weight ratio.
Space elevators are at the extreme edge of possible engineering even for molecular nanotechnology. Thousands of tons of the superstrong material are needed and the fibers need to be formed into a structure 40,000 miles long.
Tens of kilograms of carbon nanotube bundles could be made into flywheels that provide 40 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. 10 to 11 kilowatts per kilogram of energy storage makes for space vehicles and airplanes with insane performance.
Superstrong materials would lighten up a spaceplane body and increase the power to weight of the engine and power to weight of the energy storage. This would enable a single stage to orbit spaceplane.
Supersonic vertical takeoff and landing electric planes.
The GE90-115B Brayton turbofan jet engine used on the Boeing 777 has a power to weight ratio of 10.0 kW/kg.
An electric motor made for aviation, Emrax 268 Brushless AC has 10.05 kW/kg.
Super material flywheels would enable full sized electric power passenger planes and even supersonic electric passenger planes.
There was a design of vertical takeoff and vertical passenger electric planes.Elon Musk has talked about creating a supersonic vertical takeoff and vertical landing electric passenger plane.
This would enable airports without runways to be in cities. The design was based upon batteries that had 1000 wh/kg and superconducting engines that had 7-8 kw/kg. The super flywheel would vastly outperform the theoretical batteries in Elon’s design.
Supermaterials and fantastic power to weight would make incredible spaceships
Superstrong materials would enable lightweight but powerful spacecraft. Laser pushed solar sails and other spaceships would have acceleration 100 times better than current systems. Speeds would be far higher as well.
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.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.