Just in case you missed Tim McGee's article on carbon nanoribbons, gecko glue, or hydrogen storage for fuel cells, I'm here to reiterate that carbon nanotechnology is one of the hottest new technologies today. Many of which can potentially make the world a greener place.Nanotechnology "matters" because scientists are finding that very familiar materials start behaving very strangely at extremely small sizes. It's like finding a new element. For example, take a piece of aluminum and cut it into pieces. Even microscopic shavings of aluminum act like, well....aluminum. But if you keep cutting those aluminum pieces down to, say, 30 nanometers, the pieces become explosive, and voila! a world of possibliities for aluminum-laced rocket fuel. A nanometer is the length a man's beard grows in the time it takes him to lift a razor to his face. Carbon tubes manufactured to this size - nanotubes - are stronger than steel wire, more conducive than copper wire and can support their weight a million times over. The possible applications are vast.
This month's National Geographic features a full-length article on nanotechnology including applications like fire-resistant glass. (For you hapless non-subscribers, the online version includes shortened versions of the articles and a consolation prize in the form of an online photo gallery.) Scientific American describes a new nanomaterial as strong as spider silk and as rigid as silica that might one day used to make replacement bones. Most relevant to the Treehugger perhaps are applications like the nanotube membranes described by WorldChanging that could reduce the cost of desalination of seawater by 75% and maybe even be used to remove CO2 from flue gases. Read up on this stuff. Chances are, it's going to change your life soon, some way or another. [Written By: Courtney Yan]