A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece explaining how 3M (NYSE: MMM ) was great at doing the little things -- like applying nanotechnology to make existing products better. At the time, I explored how the company was applying the science to improve dental fillings, ceramic materials, and, potentially, even radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.
Recently, 3M announced the release of a new window-treatment film -- the Prestige Ultra Safety & Security film -- that relies on advances in nanotechnology.
The film is noteworthy because of the many qualitative improvements it provides over existing products. For starters, because it doesn't use any metals, the film is transparent. This means that if customers prefer not to have windows with a shiny metallic finish, they don't have to. The lack of metal also makes it much less susceptible to corrosion and helps it last longer. (The new product comes with a lifetime warranty for homeowners and a 15-year warranty for commercial customers.) And as an added benefit, the lack of metal cuts down on cell-phone interference. With more homes and buildings going wireless, this is an increasingly important characteristic, and it is likely to gain 3M more than a few customers and give it a leg up on competitors such as BASF (NYSE: BF ) and DuPont (NYSE: DD ) .
The advantages don't stop there, however. The nano-enhanced treatment absorbs 99.9% of the ultraviolet light that enters a window, protecting furniture, carpets, and works of art from fading.
Lastly, the treatment, which can be applied over existing windows by professional installers, does an excellent job of holding glass together. This makes it less susceptible to both vandalism and the destructive forces of Mother Nature (think hurricane-ravaged areas).
If 3M can continue to apply nanotechnology to its other existing products as successfully as it has done with window treatments, I am confident that its substantial investment in nanotechnology research and development will soon offer investors a clearer view of the company's long-term potential.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is the author of two books on nanotechnology. He does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned in this article. 3M is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.