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July 30, 2009

The Next Industrial Revolution

Bob Hauge's research team at Rice University just announced they've created a method that can build pure carbon nanotubes that are currently measured in centimeters, but could eventually yield nanotubes of unlimited length.

For those who are wondering what's so big about carbon nanotubes, carbon nanotubes are small carbon tubes that are 1/50,000th the width of a human hair and at least 30 times stronger than steel.  Being able to mass-produce carbon nanotubes for cheap will create a revolution in manufacturing at least on the scale that computers of done and continue to do to information.

Carbon nanotubes are currently incredibly expensive to manufacture.  For example, 1kg of single-wallled carbon nanotubes at cheaptubes.com costs $50,000.  That's why this method is potentially so powerful.  If this method can drop the price by 100x-1000x, which would be $50-500/kg, cars would become lighter and safer, clothing would become bullet-proof, human space exploration would become economical, and the infamous space elevator would be able to be built on a budget (right now a low payload elevator would cost $450 million - how about a heavy-lifter for $20 million?!).  I can't wait until this process is commercialized.

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