In late 2005 Liftport Group, arguably the most visible corporate entity in the space elevator community, seemed to be on a roll. They had a line on the Space Elevator (SE) version of the holy grail - continuous production of carbon nanotubes (CNT's).
CNT production is still done in batches. Liftport's April General Newsletter describes their "continuous flow process" as "a huge leap forward in the production quantities that will be required for supplying the growing [demand for CNT's] across a vast array of industries."
Not necessarily CNT's strong enough to make the tether for the SE but any supply of CNT's is likely to find a buyer in a market that projects growth in individual sectors in billions of dollars. Profits from a successful CNT plant would provide research money to take Liftport's SE research to the next level.
Liftport found willing partners in the City of Millville, NJ and the federally-funded Cumberland Empowerment zone named for the surrounding county. Each loaned Liftport $50K. Liftport's newsletter picks up the story from here.
"Unfortunately, our contractor did not fulfill their end of the contract and slipped over schedule and over budget. We assured the city and county that we were still committed and continued development. Once again the time table slipped, and promises were broken. We again went to the city and county to reassure them and make promises based on assurances from our contractor that results were imminent.
"At the end of March , we read an article in the news that claimed we were being sued. We followed up by calling various contacts and ended up leaving several messages but getting no new information. We had not received any mail, email, or voice messages about this.
"Patrick Boake emailed us asking about it and mentioned it in his Space Elevator Journal. Further digging by Patrick yielded assurances by city and county officials that though they were indeed moving forward with filing a civil suit to defend their taxpayer's interests, they are still hoping that we'll be successful and that they'll be able to settle the suit with a mutually beneficial outcome.
"Our contractor has chosen to default on the contract and we will be bringing the furnace home to Bremerton where there has been a growing interest by University of Washington researchers in working on this project. Our furnace as it exists now does indeed produce carbon nanotubes, and has for about four months. The process, however, does not sustain as intended and is therefore not yet ready for installation. The news article suggests that after the suit is filed and LiftPort is served, we'll have ninety days to respond (we finally received notice on April, 5. It is being reviewed by our attorney). We're fairly confident that we will be able to install CNT production in Millville within that time frame, but will only do so if the ROI can justify it."