There is an annual Space Elevator Conference to discuss progress and a Japanese construction firm even has announced plans to build a space elevator by 2050. These plans mostly depend on carbon nanotubes for manufacturing the up to 100,000 km long tether required to build such an elevator (read more: "To the cosmos by nanotechnology"). And, so far, carbon nanotubes are not up to the job yet.
One of the problems researchers have to struggle with in exploiting the extraordinary mechanical properties of CNTs, for instance for building superstrong fibers or T-shirt-thin ballistic armors, has been the question of how to synthesis CNTs with macroscale lengths and without decreasing areal density. A crucial step for realizing such applications will be the ability to mass-produce carbon nanotubes with meter-scale or even kilometer-scale length and excellent mechanical properties.
In new work, reported in the June 27, 2013 online edition of ACS NANO ("Growth of Half-Meter Long Carbon Nanotubes Based on Schulz–Flory Distribution"), a team of researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing have found that the growth of ultralong carbon nanotubes could be described using Schulz-Flory distribution, which is very common in polymer science.