The Business Of Nanotech - The Business Of Nanotech There's...

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The Business Of Nanotech There's still plenty of hype, but nanotechnology is finally moving from the lab to the marketplace. Get ready for cars, chips, and golf balls made with new materials engineered down to the level of individual atoms Pity the poor alchemists. They spent the Middle Ages in candle-lit laboratories, laboring to brew universal elixirs and to turn base metals into gold or silver. They failed utterly. By the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, researchers equipped with microscopes founded modern chemistry -- and dismissed alchemy as hocus- pocus. But it turns out alchemists were just a few centuries ahead of schedule. Today, in sparkling labs equipped with powerful microscopes, scientists on three continents are promising dramatic new materials and medicines that would make alchemists proud. This work takes place in the realm of nanotechnology, industry's tiniest stage. The standard unit of measurement, a nanometer, is a billionth of a meter -- barely the size of 10 hydrogen atoms in a row. In this universe entire dramas can unfold on the tip of a pin, and a sneeze packs the punch of a raging hurricane. Why so small? Researchers have discovered that matter at this tiny scale often behaves very differently. While some of the science behind this phenomenon is still shrouded in mystery, the commercial potential of the infinitesimal is coming sharply into focus. Familiar materials -- from gold to carbon soot -- display startling and useful new properties. Some transmit light or electricity. Others become harder than diamonds or turn into potent chemical catalysts. What's more, researchers find that a tiny dose of nanoparticles can transform the chemistry and nature of far bigger things, creating everything from fortified fenders to superefficient fuel cells. Engineers working at the nano scale have a brand-new tool kit that's full of wonder and brimming with potential riches. Now it's time to start cashing in. Throughout 2005, companies large and small will be rushing more nano-based products from labs to the marketplace. Consumers will encounter nanotechnology in the form of nick-proof trims on Hummers, Wilson tennis racquets with extra pop, even golf balls designed to fly straight. Investors, meanwhile, will be faced with a slew of bold announcements. On Feb. 1, for example, computer giant Hewlett-Packard Co. ( HPQ ) disclosed a breakthrough in nanotechnology that, within a decade, could carry computing beyond today's silicon and transistors. "We are reinventing the computer at the molecular scale," says Stan Williams, an HP senior fellow and co-author of the report. For now, nano is starting out modestly. The biggest markets for nanoparticles remain in familiar products, from the black rubber filler in tires, a $4 billion
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industry, to the silver used in traditional photography. Lux Research Inc., a New York nanotech market researcher, estimates that only $13 billion worth of manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnologies this year. That's little
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The Business Of Nanotech - The Business Of Nanotech There's...

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