Better Fullerene sorting through clever electrochemistry:

I'm relieved -- I was afraid they'd give up and just ship
all those buckytubes off to Bangladesh to be
sorted by hand. ;-)

If space elevators precede an ice-drilling expedition to
Europa (they may well; a terrestrial elevator may even be
a technological prerequisite for such an ambitious
mission) they might help solve the Europa surface
power supply problem.  A space elevator dropping
to the surface of Europa could double as a generator,
if it had an electrical conductor running up through it,
sweeping up power from Jupiter's magnetic field, sapping
the rotational energy of both Jupiter and Europa to
supply all electrical energy needs.  Buckytubes have
interesting conductive properties, so the elevator ribbon
itself might be the ticket.  Or is my E&M broken, here?

Maybe there are some tricky orbital mechanics by which
it could catch payloads sent to it from Earth or nearby,
out at the counterweight, without deceleration, so that
getting stuff to Europa's surface wouldn't be a serious
hassle.  (But that may be asking too much.  What do I
know about orbital mechanics?)

Many of the issues that bedevil space elevator design
(weather, lightning strikes, dodging space debris)
are non-issues for Europa.  One possible exception:
radiation -- I don't know how buckytube-woven fabrics
would stand up to what Jupiter puts out.  Another
possible problem: the lack of a local supply of carbon,
if you needed to beef up a bootstrap elevator after
initial deployment.  A Europan space elevator would be
much smaller than a terrestrial one, but it would still
be much an awful lot of gear to send out as far as
Jupiter.  Still, with a terrestrial space elevator used
as a sling, offering $100/lb launch costs, the issue of
sending big payloads to odd corners of the solar
system may become relatively negligible.

-michael turner

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