Google X, the search company’s lab responsible for “moonshot” projects like Google Glass, self-driving cars, and Project Loon, has unsuccessfully tried to build a space elevator, according to Fast Company.
Google X ran into problems due to material limitations. In order for it to work, Google would need a cable that is “at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel we have,” Google X employee Dan Piponi told Fast Company.
The team did find one material that could work—carbon nanotubes—but no one has successfully made a perfect carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. That put the space elevator project in “a deep freeze,” but Google is still keeping its eye on carbon nanotube advancements.
Google X also toyed with the idea of a hoverboard. It considered using magnets to keep the hoverboard aloft, but since magnets have a tendency to shift polarities, the hoverboard would constantly flip over.
The team also considered other materials, but eventually decided it would be too expensive, especially for a project that wouldn’t have a great impact on society and the economy.
Projects at Google X have to abide by a general rule: they must address a problem that affects millions of people by utilizing a radical solution that resembles science fiction, all while using obtainable technologies.
“When we let it go, it’s a positive thing,” Google X Rapid Evaluation Team and Design Lead Richard DeVaul told Fast Company. “We’re saying, ‘This is great: Now we get to work on other things.’”