Next Up for Nanotech: Success?

After years of development, products incorporating revolutionary carbon nanotubes seem poised to hit the commercial market. Yesterday, Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) demonstrated a 5-inch, flat-panel video display using carbon nanotubes to create a brighter, sharper picture than current technology offers. In the company's own words, the new technology has the power to "fundamentally change the design and fabrication of flat panel displays."

This is huge, huge news.

According to a company press release, Motorola's research indicates that a 40-inch panel would cost $400. Imagine a 40-inch, high-definition television that cost $400. Every dad would be getting one for Father's Day. The technology also uses very little energy to maintain the display. Apply it to cell phones, digital cameras, laptop computers, or handheld gaming devices, and we could soon be entertaining ourselves for weeks on end without plugging in and at a fraction of the cost. At home, carbon nanotube-based products could help lower our electric bills.

Plasma and LCD televisions have been a success for companies such as Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , Samsung, Philips (NYSE: PHG  ) , and Matsushita's (NYSE: MC  ) Panasonic brand, with 23-inch models selling for more than $1,200 and 40-inch models selling for up to a whopping $5,000. These companies are predicting that demand for high-quality display technology will increase in the future, and each plans to ramp up capacity to keep pace with the market. In its 2004 annual report, Sony alone anticipated investing $1 billion in these efforts. Nanotechnology could pull the rug right out from under all of them.

Another nano-product primed to hit the market is the NDMX golf ball, manufactured by closely held NanoDynamics. Duffers expecting to pay top dollar for these bad boys will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the company expects them to sell for $40 to $70 per dozen -- competitive with the price for top-end golf balls sold by Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) and Callaway (NYSE: ELY  ) -- with the price dropping as NanoDynamics ramps up production capacity. This is another sign that the nano-future won't cost an arm and a leg. According to NanoDynamics, the NDMX technology will prevent your golf ball from rotating off axis after you hit it, thereby limiting frustrating hooks and slices. What's more, NanoDynamics intends to have the ball approved by the PGA.

Next-generation nanotechnology is starting to find its way to consumers, and this trickle should soon become a flow. Nanotechnology will help make products across industries better, more efficient, and more cost-effective. One more thing's for sure: The rise of nanotech will leave newfound millionaires in its wake -- ordinary investors who were either lucky or savvy enough to buy the right stocks. Prefer to gun for that savvy end? Our own Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter team has been tracking carbon nanotubes like a hawk, and will be bubbling up good ideas for investing in this world-changing technology throughout its history-making transition from the lab to the commercial world.

To learn more about carbon nanotubes, take a free trial of the Rule Breakers service led by Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner, the same investor who pegged AOL, Amazon, and eBay as winners in their early days. If you haven't been paying attention to nanotech, there's a lot to catch up on.

Tim Hanson is blown away by the potential of nanotechnology on (and off) the golf course. He has no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article.


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