Having one would allow us to send cargo into space for a fraction of the cost of using rockets and allow us to harvest vast amounts of solar energy by placing solar collectors well above the Earth's atmosphere, where the sun never stops shining.
Finding a material strong enough to serve as a tether is one of the most daunting technical challenges standing in the way.
Earlier this year, however, researchers may have accidentally discovered the best candidate yet for building a space elevator. A set of diamond nanothreads created under immense pressures in a lab might rival or exceed the strength of carbon nanotubes, which are 100 times stronger than steel.
A little bit of luck
John Badding of Penn State University and his team discovered that liquid benzene, when subjected to extreme pressure (around 200,000 times the pressure at the surface of the Earth) and then slowly relieved of that pressure, forms extremely thin, tight rings of carbon that are structurally identical to diamonds.