Nanotech's Superman-Like Qualities

I am all in favor of remaking Superman in order that a new generation of younger fans might be introduced to the superhero that is "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."

I fear, however, that this and subsequent generations will be increasingly underwhelmed by his superpowers. This is because science fact reads more like science fiction every day.

I was reminded of this recently, when I came across this news story about nanotechnology being employed to produce super-strong fibers for the creation of better and lighter bulletproof vests.

The development of a new material that more effectively stops a speeding bullet might not seem that extraordinary, but it is important to remember that future advances in nanotechnology will not be limited to only incremental improvements.

To this end, DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) , Raytheon (NYSE: RTN  ) , JEOL, and Dow Corning, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) , are now all partnering with the U.S. Army and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at a new $50 million nanotechnology research facility dubbed the Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies.

Among the projects the institute has undertaken is the creation of uniforms that camouflage themselves instantaneously, and the development of new combat boots that allow soldiers to leap 20 feet in the air at the press of a button.

To be sure, a 20-foot jump is still a far way from being able to leap a tall building in a single bound, but heck, it's a start. The technology is only going to get better. Who's to say that by the time the next iteration of Superman is released in 2016 (perhaps starring an artificially enhanced Macaulay Culkin), the technology won't have moved that much closer to reality?

If the idea seems farfetched, I would like to remind you that IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) -- as I wrote in this article a few months back -- is now applying a Superman-like supercomputer that can calculate an eye-popping 70 trillion operations per second in pursuit of creating new materials that are, quite possibly, out of this world.

From NASA's exploration of carbon nanotubes to create the cables for a "space elevator" to the potential of nanotech to "grow" computer chips in a beaker and, quite possibly, cure a variety of cancers, investors need to stay apace of developments in nanotechnology, because separating fact from fiction in the not-so-distant future may very well require the X-ray vision of Superman.

Dow Chemical is anIncome Investorrecommendation.

Fool contributorJack Uldrichis actually a fan of the Green Hornet but would still like to see the new Superman movie.He is also the author of two books on nanotechnology. He owns stock in IBM. The Fool has a strictdisclosure policy.


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