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Rice Contracted to Provide NASA's Quantum Wire

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the soon-will-be-in-vending-machines-for-a-nickel dept.

Space 211

geekman writes "NASA is paying Rice University $11 million to build a prototype quantum wire that can conduct electricity 10 times better than traditional copper cables at one-sixth the weight. Rice has four years to build a one-meter-long quantum wire, which will be made out of carbon nanotubes. Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, but then again, all the rocket scientists at Los Alamos have only ever been able to put together a four-centimeter nanotube."

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211 comments

The unfortunate thing about quantum wires... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366843)

Is that they never seem to be where you left them. Although on a good day you'll end up with more than you started with depending on what universe you're in.

The real question is.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367021)

What happens if you leave them in the box with Schrödinger's cat..

Re:The real question is.. (1, Funny)

Masami Eiri (617825) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367305)

They strangle the cat... maybe. Or maybe the cat knits them into a gas mask to protect him against the gas. Or maybe the gas reacts with them and creates a quantumn explosion...
Damn you Schrodinger!

Re:The real question is.. (1, Offtopic)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367691)

... and the cat gets stuck bouncing through time in other people's bodies, until it finally lands a dreary part in a sad series based on a humdrum spinoff premise?

With a horrible theme song that sounds like someone strangling Scott Bakula?

It's Backwards Universe! Where all cats are Scott Backula, and all Jonathan Archers are Cats!

All your base are belong to us.

Re:The unfortunate thing about quantum wires... (1)

Harinezumi (603874) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367075)

And if you do manage to find them, you can never tell where they'll be the next moment.

Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, (5, Funny)

scottv67 (731709) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366847)

Seems like a lot of money for a little wire,

Yeah, but it's still cheaper than Monster Cable.

;^)

Re:Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, (0, Redundant)

n.e.watson (835126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366952)

No kidding. Whee. A fellow musician.

Re:Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, (1)

k512-arch (796444) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367099)

haha, i can attest to that... pahah.

Re:Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, (0, Offtopic)

Genjurosan (601032) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367215)

I'm afraid your joke infringes on the Monster Cable trademark. By using the word 'Monster' to make a joke, and then gain positive moderation; we request you cease all activies using the word 'Monster'. In addition to the above, please sign over all moderation points ASAP!

Re:Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, (2, Informative)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367330)

An erudite piece on Monster Cable, their products, business strategies, ethics, &c.:

Linkage [somethingawful.com] .

A quote from within said piece to entice your fancy:
Of course these wires cost nearly as much as the DVD player itself, even more if you include the Monster-brand power filtration adapting converter unit which instantly converts your cash into lines of high grade Columbian cocaine for the company's CEO.

Re:Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, (0, Offtopic)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367452)

I can already see the adverts for nanotube monster cable...

How much for a space elevator cable? (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367565)

Lemme see $11M/m x 15000km x 50 strands... Vokkov Bill Gates go stand in the poor people's line.

Rice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366851)

Wild or white?

Re:Rice... (0, Offtopic)

jrl87 (669651) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367019)

Wild rice isn't actually rice, its more akin to wheat.

Re:Rice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367071)

Long dirty.

Re:Rice... (0, Redundant)

mangu (126918) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367550)

When I first read it, I thought it was Condolezza...

How long... (5, Funny)

Evanisincontrol (830057) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366855)

How long until some eccentric billionaire pays Rice to wire his entire house with that stuff?

"My house is iced out with quantam wiring, biatch. Or something. Bling bling."

Re:How long... (4, Funny)

nebaz (453974) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366892)

So if you use twisted pair quantum wiring for broadband, and setup vpn, would that be quantum tunneling? (Sorry) :-)

Re:How long... (4, Funny)

Dr. GeneMachine (720233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367154)

Wouldn't that give problems with latency and response times? I mean, let's say, you do a ping. It gives you the round-trip time. Now you know how fast your packet is - which means you do not know any longer where it is. Would that be a dropped packet? How are you supposed to ping on your quantum tunneling thingmabob anyway??
Ah, newfangled codswallop! When we were young, we pushed carts full of punched cards from the terminal to the mainframe and back! Uphill both ways!! And we liked it!!!

Re:How long... (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367331)

"So if you use twisted pair quantum wiring for broadband, and setup vpn..."

That's a bit of a leap.

Re:How long... (1)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367347)

That's a bit of a leap.
A... quantum... leap? (yup that joke's as bad as I thought).

Re:How long... (1)

fr2asbury (462941) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367170)

Shh! Don't give the audiophiles any idea.

yeah... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366857)

cool

Rice Hmm.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366863)

That must means they can do it faster.

Thats why they get do do a whole meter.

reminds me of the manhatten project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366885)

At least they know what they want and are able to produce it in small quantities. I have no doubt that this will revolutionize the world in less than 20 years just as did research in nuclear fission.

More poorly spent money... (3, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366886)

NASA is paying Rice University $11 million
Rice has four years to build a one-meter-long quantum wire,

Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to put out a bounty on this wire? Instead of the four year plan, you get the "everyone scrambling to complete it first" plan, and as a bonus, even when someone collects the bounty, all the research done by other institutions still stands.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1, Insightful)

grumpygrodyguy (603716) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366996)

Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to put out a bounty on this wire?

Not really, too much risk. It's an unevaluated process. Besides, how many companies would enter? Ten, 150? You've got better chances winning the world poker tour. Bottom line, everyone who isn't first place gets burned and left with a huge bill, no patents, and no $11Million.

Re:More poorly spent money... (4, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367211)

Bottom line, everyone who isn't first place gets burned and left with a huge bill, no patents, and no $11Million.

No patents? That assumes this quantum wire can be constructed in one step. If it's more than one step, you can patent everything along the way even if you never get the final step complete -- such as making it feasible at room temperature or something. And, in failing, you might find something that works for other applications. Read up on the history of the Post-It for one such example.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367524)

If it's more than one step, you can patent everything along the way...

Collecting license fees from the competitors you like, and strangling the development of the ones you don't. In the process, a cartel controlling patents fundamental to the manufacturing process forms, creating a new IP power for the future to deal with.

No. Call me paranoid, but I don't like the idea.

Re:More poorly spent money... (5, Insightful)

aptenergy (688428) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367005)

Sure, but most universities won't have the experience to do it. Smalley won the Nobel Prize for his work with buckyballs (carbon-60, buckminsterfullerene, fullerene); carbon nanotubes are rods with essentially the same structure as buckyballs (the capped ends are two halves of a fullerene, iirc). Rice is obviously a leading pioneer in the field, nanotubes are Rice's specialty, and there's no reason to have a bounty when you have a Nobel Prize winner working on it.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367451)

Rice is obviously a leading pioneer in the field, nanotubes are Rice's specialty, and there's no reason to have a bounty when you have a Nobel Prize winner working on it.

May be you should read more than Forbes and Wall street. Just because Smalley got nobel prize doesn't mean he is smart all the time. Yes his nobel prize work was good, but if you have been to a recent DARPA contract meetings, he is stripped out for flaws in his arguments.

Also Rice is not the leader in nanotubes. They don't even have the best nanotechnology facility out there. It is not even part of NNIN (national nanotechnology infrastructure network) which does more interesting things. Yes again Dr. Smalley chose not to join the network because according to him colloboration has too much overhead.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367009)

No, it wouldn't. For someone whose name implies a connection to academia, you sure are naiive. What department would let a professor hire research assistants based on his confidence he could win a prize? Rice (as you should know) is a particularly well-suited university to do the work, based on the fact they pretty much invented the area.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367013)

And where would the universities get the upfront funding to hire students and researchers to do the work?

Re:More poorly spent money... (0)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367121)

Thats the beauty of being a University. The students pay you!.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1)

anderm7 (68050) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367150)

You must be a law student. In Science and Engineering, if you can't get paid to be a grad student, thats the world telling you that you need to find a new profession.

Re:More poorly spent money... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367031)

I've heard that Rice is one of the most productive sources of research into nanotechnology. They've gotten this grant because they are qualified for it. This isn't something that you can do without funding so if there were a bounty all of the competitors would still need large grants in order to do the research.

Also the bounty would result in even more infighting than is usually seen in the scientific community.

Re:More poorly spent money... (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367061)

good point, but nows the RnD is being done with public money. this means the data will be public, and then anyone can take the info and start there own company.
If it was a bounty, companies would retain the rights to not only the carbon tube, but the process and discoveries which could have other applications.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1)

billbaggins (156118) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367085)

Isn't that the sort of thing that the patent system was originally intended to promote? Where the "bounty" is the short-term monopoly on your invention...

Re:More poorly spent money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367302)

Research grants are given in order to pay for the research. What you're proposing is that several university/private research labs somehow find the resources to do the research on their own in the hopes of collecting $11M in prize money. Research just doesn't work that way.

Re:More poorly spent money... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367418)

Note also that even though NASA has stated that it would like to offer high-publicity high-payout prizes for items in a manner similar to the X-prize, they were forbidden from doing so by Congress. Asking Congress to change this policy, they received allowances to give small cash prizes, but nothing near what would be needed for big research.

So my friend, your bone to pick is with Congress not NASA.

Re:More poorly spent money... (1)

iammaxus (683241) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367469)

Very simple: Universities won't put down the $10 million or so that it takes to complete this project without knowing for sure that they will be paid back.

Re:More poorly spent money... (5, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367628)

This is called "basic research." It probably won't work, and if it does, will be far beyond even a VC event horizon.

Any money for this would come from the government through the grant writing process. The number of labs who have a C-60 reactor, and have good control over it, are still reletively small. Not to mention the ability to characterize and sort.

This is not like, say, the space plane, in which most technology is 5-10 years old and all that was required was a bit of money for engineering. These are molecules that really do not yet exist in huge quanities, and putting them together is not well understood. Hell, even the theory of how they conduct electricity is younger that superconductors, and just see how many of those we have around.

Rice and NASA have a very good working relationship. Rice has some of the best people to deal this type of Nanotechnology, plus enough other funding to leverage this small amount of money into a working product.

nano-Virgin (0, Troll)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367633)

Putting an XPrize bounty on this is a great idea. It sounds exactly like the sort of thing Sir Richard would go for.

A University is even worse than NASA and other govt institutions when it comes to delivering. Give the job to to the private sector.

Will no one think of the birdies (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366888)

how are they supposed to land on quantum power lines!!

Re:Will no one think of the birdies (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367193)

Better hope they never succeed, you'd probably wind up with bird crap landing inside all the buildings in the area...

If you were to wrap it around an average needle... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366890)

Would it completely cover the surface area of the needle with room to spare?

Thank god for Condi (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366896)

Condi Rice can build anything, she is one of the jewels in Bush's hat.

Don't tell me you didn't misread the title at first either!

actually I didn't (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366947)

But then again, that's because the title didn't involve any outlandish or false claims against anybody.

Re:actually I didn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367092)

Good point.

wait a second... (1)

double-oh three (688874) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366897)

Are nanotubes really quantum? They're very small, but I don't think they're actually at the quantum level of physics.

Uh, dude... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366916)

... everything is at the quantum level of physics.

Ballistic Conduction (2, Interesting)

DumbSwede (521261) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366943)

I believe this refers to the ballistic conduction that takes place in carbon nano-tubes and is a quantum phenomenon. Basically electrons experience a small resistance entering and leaving a nano-tube, but then near zero resistance travelling along them.

Re:Ballistic Conduction (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366966)

I believe this refers to the ballistic conduction that takes place in carbon nano-tubes and is a quantum phenomenon. Basically electrons experience a small resistance entering and leaving a nano-tube, but then near zero resistance travelling along them.

Exactly zero along them, IIRC. This "conducts electricity 10 times better" thing must be talking about the resistance at the required 1 meter length. They've got O(1) resistance, and normal wires have O(n) resistance. A constant factor only makes sense at a constant length.

Re:Ballistic Conduction (4, Informative)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367058)

No, quantum wires have a resistance that increases logarithmically with the length, rather than linearly for normal (ohmic) wires.

Exactly zero resistance would be an ideal conductor. I don't think there are any examples of ideal conductors that are not also superconductors, which implies low temperature.

Re:Ballistic Conduction (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367493)

How the heck is that possible? If you would take a 1m wire and cut it into short pieces and solder them together with a different conductor, then the overall resistivity will be less than when you had a single piece of wire???

Re:Ballistic Conduction (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367686)

If you would take a 1m wire and cut it into short pieces and solder them together with a different conductor, then the overall resistivity will be less than when you had a single piece of wire???
No, other way round. A 2m piece of this wire would have less than double the resistance of a 1m piece. To clarify your example: say the 1m piece of wire has resistance R. Then you cut it into ten smaller pieces. Each of these pieces will have resistance greater than R/10. Stick them back together with some other conductor, and the total will be greater than 10*R/10, i.e. greater than R.

Re:Ballistic Conduction (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367700)

Uh, no, it would be more. Think about it.

I don't know the first thing about the physics involved, but say the resistance is proportional to log_10(n+1) where n is the length. For n >> 1, this is roughly log_10(n). If you cut a wire of resistance r into 10 pieces, each one has a resistance of log_10(n/10) = r-1. Then the total resistance would be 10(r-1) which, I'm guessing, is roughly 10r for any reasonable macroscopic length. Cutting the wire into 10 pieces made the total resistance about 10 times larger. When you disturb the quantum mojo of one of these things, you lose the logarithmic resistance property.

Re:Ballistic Conduction (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367701)

The other way around. If you took a 1D wire, cut it in half, and spliced the ends together with a non-quantum join of negligable resistance (eg with a small piece of an ordinary conductor), the overall resistance (and resistivity) would be greater than the original.

Re:Ballistic Conduction (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367087)

Now I'll admit I'm not at all knowledgeable in this area, but I do have a hard time believing that a real-world object could have O(1) resistance. Any possibility for slowing down the electrons is going to scale with the length. Is this a theoretical property of carbon nanotubes, or does it apply to carbon nanotubes manufactured in the real world?

Re:Ballistic Conduction (4, Insightful)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367206)

1-dimensional quantum systems have special properties. The charge carriers in 1D wires are not holes or electrons but instead are collective modes that have quasi-long-range order and carry the spin and charge of the original electrons as separate modes. This is kinda bizarre and has no analogy that I know of outside of quantum mechanics, but it gives 1D conductors rather unual properties.

One of these properties is that the resistance scales logarithmically with the length (not constant, the GP is incorrect). It is still remarkable though, because all other conductors have a resistance that scales linearly with the length (which seems intuitively obvious - but is wrong!).

Re:wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366989)

Yeah, but it sounds way cool, like quantum leap or something...

Re:wait a second... (5, Interesting)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367090)

Yes, they are.

A metallic carbon nanotube carries 4 quanta of current (4 charge carriers at a time): 2 conducting channels, 2 spins per channel. That's what NASA is referring to as a quantum wire.

Most of the resistance in such a wire is due to the fact that only a very few number of charge carriers can be transmitted at any time. The electrons going through the wire do not lose any energy in the wire, as there are no available lower energy states for them scatter into, and only two possible directions of motion (foward and backward). Thus, a perfect nanotube can be thought of as a "ballistic" conductor. There is some resistance to putting current into it and getting it back out, but in between, there is no resistance in the normal sense. (Although this sounds a little like superconductivity, it is definitely not.)

In a real nanotube, there are defects, contact resistances, impurities and environmental factors which act as transmission barriers, raising the probablility that an injected electron will reflect back to the source and not make it all the way through. It will be interesting to see how the Rice guys plan on annealing or growing their meter long wire to maintain the desired properties (and that's where the money comes in). Simply weaving a bunch of small nanotubes together is not going to cut it.

Re:wait a second... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367547)

A metallic carbon nanotube carries 4 quanta of current (4 charge carriers at a time): 2 conducting channels, 2 spins per channel. That's what NASA is referring to as a quantum wire. Most of the resistance in such a wire is due to the fact that only a very few number of charge carriers can be transmitted at any time. The electrons going through the wire do not lose any energy in the wire, as there are no available lower energy states for them scatter into, and only two possible directions of motion (foward and backward). Thus, a perfect nanotube can be thought of as a "ballistic" conductor
Then it seems to me that a cable of perfect tubes should have a fixed resistance independent of length and a saturation current. The resistance at currents below saturation would be the fixed entrance+exit resistance while above saturation the current would be constant, independent of voltage.

I don't know.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366921)

Would it still be a meter after I observed it?

uh oh (5, Funny)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366927)

carbon nanotubes...that's awfully similar to the Inanimate Carbon Rod.

Get it right (5, Funny)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366928)

" all the rocket scientists at Los Alamos have only ever been able to put together a four-centimeter nanotube."

They're nuclear scientists, not rocket scientists, dammit. Give'em a break!

No, YOU are wrong! (0)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367216)

They're nuclear scientists, not rocket scientists, dammit.

It's NUKULAR, not nuclear!

Rice contracted WTF? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12366954)

Crap...
I thought NASA had contracted Condolezza Rice to build a quantum wire for a top secret mission or something like that...

Re:Rice contracted WTF? (1)

Marko DeBeeste (761376) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367278)

And I was expecting broadband under Uncle Ben's smiling face. Oh, well.

Reference and extra-info (4, Informative)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#12366991)

For those who didn't read the past article on quantum wires [slashdot.org] , here it is.

And for those who don't know what an armchair nanotube is, here are some images [mtu.edu] (The armchair nanotube is the one in the middle).

What is the quantum wire used for? (-1, Offtopic)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367012)

To build a giant Tesla coil to defend Rice against terrorists?

Once again showing that Condi is the go-to gal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367050)

International politics, university finance, Kremlinology, piano-playing, business, and now nanotechnology- is there anything she can't do?

It will be interesting to see (3, Interesting)

Future Man 3000 (706329) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367056)

Which approach they will take towards crafting this wire. It's almost a given they'll use carbon nanotubes because of the ballistic conduction property that will permit arbitrary-lengthed wires to pass electricity without resistance, but will they go with a singlewalled CNT or will they sacrifice perfect conductivity for stability and go with a multiwalled CNT?

These things could be the next revolution after fiber optics for network communication, so there is reason to be excited. I wonder if there would be too much interference to run these things in a twisted pair configuration.

Quadrialliiarryly opening the door to tomorrow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367057)

If a paradox where toooo real then where would it fit?

it would appear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367093)

that size does matter afterall.

Go Owls (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367107)

I'm sitting about three blocks from the Rice Campus & I'm a Rice grad, so pardon me for cheering 'em on.

This actually makes (some) sense - Dick Smalley & Robert Curl on the Rice faculty (and a 3rd guy in England) won that trivial little prize - the Nobel in Chemistry for basically inventing/discovering the buckyball and related carbon nano stuff - or something like that. I also seem to recall that Smalley also has done pretty well in acually being able to manufacture buckyballs.

Also, there is a long history of collaberation between NASA and Rice. Starting before the Apollo program. I had a professor at Rice who designed experiment packages that went to the moon in the Apollo program.

So, if NASA was going to award a contract or grant to somebody for this, Rice does make some sense.

Also, kind of interesting that President Kennedy gave the famous speech "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..." on the Rice campus.

Re:Go Owls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367533)

(and a 3rd guy in England)

Or, Harold Kroto [sussex.ac.uk] of the University of Sussex [sussex.ac.uk] as "a 3rd guy in England" is also sometimes known.

It's a proof of concept (5, Informative)

andrewzx1 (832134) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367116)

If Nobel lareat Smalley and his lab can build a proof of concept of the Carbon nanotube superwire, it would be worth far more than a few million $. This kind of technology would seriously revolutionize Western society. With a super wire you can build electic motors that are both many times stronger at the same power, and are much more efficient. The resulting stepping motors would revolutionize robotics. The wires would change how we deliver power, and even possibly, basic electrical circuitry. Imagine high current density superconductor wires at room temperature.

Carbon nanotubules, when properly, manufactured could also have very high tensile strength. Many times stronger than stranded steel cable and weighing less as well. This is the technology people what it use to build the space elevator.

Of course, after proof of concept there are still many challenges to cost effective manufacturing.

There are a dozen revolutionary uses for super wires. But first we need a proof of concept. FYI - I'm looking for a job at a well-funded nanotech startup. Many qualificiations, inquire within!

Re:It's a proof of concept (1)

iammaxus (683241) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367662)

Could you please explain what you mean by increasing strength (torque?) at a given power? Do you mean for a given size of motor, you can have higher torques and lower rpms? I know that electric motor efficiencies are as high as 95% so the only way to get "many times" higher torques for a given power is to lower angular velocity. Additionally, how will they make electric motors much more efficient (again given electric motors are already commonly 80-90%+)? I assume you are talking about squeezing out an extra percent or two lost to resistive heating?

A problem of scale... (4, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367119)



Let's just hope the kids at Rice don't get confused and wind up making a ridiculously large model [slashdot.org] of a quantum wire instead. :P

Are... (1)

theJerk242 (778433) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367132)

Seems like a lot of money for a little wire, but then again, all the rocket scientists at Los Alamos have only ever been able to put together a four-centimeter nanotube.

Are there any pictures of this 4cm nano-tube?

Wow.. Rice as in Condoleeza? (0, Redundant)

OmgTEHMATRICKS (836103) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367151)

Who would've ever thought she was THAT smart? Holy cow!

Sheesh, shoulda looked in Audiophile (3, Funny)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367156)


I'm sure there's some outfit in Audiophile magazine that will sell you "quantum wire".

I hear it gives you really crisp trebles.

rocket scientists?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367172)

maybe that's why it's taking so long

Space elevator just a few months away! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367224)

Ok, space elevator enthusiasts! Tell us all again how a space elevator is so easy to build, and how it'd be soooo easy to have one operational in just 5 or 10 years if only people would listen. Please, I could use a good laugh, and you guys always make me crack up.

Re:Space elevator just a few months away! (4, Funny)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367525)

Actually, it is easy to get into space. You just need to stand still and let the earth move away from you.

Isn't rice.. (1)

whitetiger0990 (852580) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367232)

isn't rice too big for quantum wires? and last time I checked it wasn't that expensive to buy rice. NASAs budget is kinda funky.

"Rocket Scientists" (-1, Redundant)

Murmer (96505) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367277)

Well, obviously they can't do that. It's not rocket science, after all.

As an aside, this is the first time I've ever seen someone use a derogatory "that bunch of rocket scientists" on a bunch of smart people whose chief concern is the science of rockets.

How soon will quantum wires come around? (1)

zoogies (879569) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367295)

If NASA is throwing $11 million behind this project, is it safe to assume it'll be around before the end of the century? How soon can we expect it to be implemented more practically, such as making spacecraft lighter and increasing the speed of computers, as the linked article suggests?

Re:How soon will quantum wires come around? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367484)


"If NASA is throwing $11 million behind this project, is it safe to assume it'll be around before the end of the century?"

This is a drop in the NASA space grant bucket. Tons of people get NASA space grants. This one is big, but it's certainly not the only research endeavor being funded by them.

I live with a space grant recipient who gets a chunk of money every year to find ways to kill bacteria that grow in the ultra-pure water used to wash semiconductors. Every term she gets to present her data, and it's a real geekfest to see what the other researchers are working on. Many of them have millions in their budgets also, and they are not all doing anything as sexy as nanotube wire.

Why not ask Zyvex to make it? (1)

daVinci1980 (73174) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367308)

I'm a bit surprised that NASA didn't ask Zyvex [zyvex.com] to work on this for them... I have friends who work there, and they do some really neat stuff. (Including working on those crazy quantum nano-tubes).

Contrary to popular belief, their office is actually quite large.

Further strains on my loyalty to my alma mater? (1)

shanen (462549) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367348)

My basic reaction is that superconducting approaches make much more sense. Weight is pretty much not a factor for normal usages. When the quantity of electricity involved is large enough that the weight does become a factor, then you're probably thinking of power transmission lines, and in that scenario you can consider the tradeoff for seriously large amounts of power. I can imagine a small refrigerated tunnel containing a high-temperature ceramic semiconductor and carrying extremely large amounts of electricity with very little lossage. I don't have the numbers at hand, but I feel like this approach is already pretty close to economic viability. (But maybe that's why they don't feel the need to put any additional government money behind it?)

Re:Further strains on my loyalty to my alma mater? (2, Insightful)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367408)

Weight may not be a factor, but flexibility is. Traditional superconductors are ceramics, where breaks between domains ruins the transmission. Carbon nanotubes, OTOH, would be flexible, and could be routed in manners than relatively rigids ceramics couldn't. The would also be more resistant to failures due to flexing.

It would be interesting to know the weight of the wire in current launch vehicles, as every kilo less of copper wire is a kilo more of payload you can lob into orbit.

Re:Further strains on my loyalty to my alma mater? (3, Informative)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367440)

My basic reaction is that superconducting approaches make much more sense. Weight is pretty much not a factor for normal usages. When the quantity of electricity involved is large enough that the weight does become a factor, then you're probably thinking of power transmission lines, and in that scenario you can consider the tradeoff for seriously large amounts of power. I can imagine a small refrigerated tunnel containing a high-temperature ceramic semiconductor and carrying extremely large amounts of electricity with very little lossage.

Ummmm, dude, NASA is the one setting up the grant. That would imply that they're thinking about using it in spacecraft, satellites, probes, etc. where weight is a huge fucking deal.

From TFA:
"This is a small step but a very significant one from our perspective, as we try to develop new technology that will help us as we send humans out from Earth and into space," said Jefferson Howell Jr., director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.
...
NASA hopes to outfit future spacecraft with quantum wires rather than heavier copper wires. Doing so could shave critical pounds, which would save money on fuel and, ultimately, allow the craft to go farther into space.
...
Some engineers have also talked about building a 62,000-mile-long tether made of nanotubes for a space elevator that would carry astronauts and cargo into orbit.

Sorry, but you missed the point by about a lightyear.

This post made me very happy... (1)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367361)

...in that I'm always picking on a buddy who works for LANL.

Now I can say (already have actually):

"you're a few nanotubes short of a meter!"

That should keep her busy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12367512)

If Condoleezza Rice spends all her time with the wire, she won't have time to mess with our foreign policy!

I wonder... (1)

RM6f9 (825298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367513)

I wonder if there might be any help to be had with the seeding or growing process using properties involving electrical charge, magnetic fields, or some combination of the two to assist with selection and alignment...

Other uses (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367650)

You could use such a wire to suspend a system of plates that would counter-revolve within your gigantic ring-shaped world to provide changing day and night zones.

A small ball on the tip of a strand repelled with a magnetic field would make a great sword/cutting tool.

Warnings for experimenters: Don't try to pick them up with your bare hands and watch out for sunflowers.

60 times better? (2, Insightful)

Jherico (39763) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367658)

As far as I know conductivty is a function of the cross section of a wire, which scales linearly with weight.

So 10 times better at 1/6th the weight should be the same as 60 time better as copper, or that it conducts the same as copper but at 1/60th the weight. Or 20 times better at 1/3rd the weight. Who's deciding this? I feel like I'm reading an article on futuristic wiring technology, but can't be trusted to deal with any number or fraction that involves a number larger than 10. Fuckers.

Try test equipment (2, Insightful)

slapout (93640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12367730)

Seems like a lot of money for a little wire

You've obviously never priced oscilloscope probe wires before. :-)
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