Globally, companies sold more than $32 billion in nanotechnology-enabled products last year. Yep, nanotech is here to stay, but what the heck is it? 42% of us don't know what it is, but it makes fabric water resistant (which not everyone likes) and can help glass clean itself. Here are some of our favorite implementations.
1) First of all, nanotech "matters" because of the absolutely endless problem-solving possibilities it offers the world, from the nano scale on up. 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.
2) Buckypaper, named for Buckminsterfullerene and our old friend Buckminster Fuller and made from the carbon nanotubes mentioned above, is 10 times lighter and 250 times stronger than steel, but is also highly conductive of heat and electricity. If the researchers are successful in making Buckypaper hold a charge it would be more energy-efficient, lighter, and would allow for a more uniform level of brightness than current CRT and LCD technology.
3) Similarly, NanoSafe battery cells show some promise in replacing current lithium-ion technology; even after 15,000 cycles, the cells still retained over 85% of their original charge capacity. Phoenix Motorcars will feature them in their upcoming line of electric pickup trucks. The remaining two picks are after the jump...
4) As with all new, innovative technologies, nanotechnology has attracted its fair share of controversy, garnering both steadfast advocates who tout its merits in revolutionizing healthcare, surveillance and materials and firm detractors who question its potential effects on human health and the environment. While it's still too early to tell, we sure hope the benefits outweigh the risks.
5) Lastly, (and with tough firmly in cheek), we present the Old to a nano. Apple has "borrowed" a few of the central tenets of nanotech and applied it to a diminutive version of its iPod, which we trumpeted as the "Green Product of the Year" in 2005. Whoever said that size matters?