Wondering where nanotechnology is headed next? Check out this month's Scientific American for the lowdown on carbon nanonets.
Instead of laying down exquisitely detailed paths of carbon nanotubes to make functional products, researchers have discovered that random networks of the super small, super-strong, highly conductive materials might be just as useful. These nanonets might usher in an era of inexpensive, highly functional "printable" electronics, light-emitting diodes, and flexible solar cells.
Why do the nets work as well as their more precise brethren? The article compares a random network of carbon nanotubes to an interstate highway system. Interconnected highways offer drivers many alternative paths to the same destination, and nanonets seem to do likewise for electrons.
This discovery's import for investors still isn't entirely clear. The Scientific American article was written by George Gruner; among many other things, he's the chief technology officer at Nanomix, a small, private nanotechnology company exploring ways to employ carbon nanonets in chemical and biological sensors. Nanomix happens to be a core holding of Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY ) , making an investment in Harris & Harris one way to play this opportunity.
The article also mentioned other companies working to apply carbon nanotubes to their products, include Carbon Nanotechnologies (which was recently acquired by Arrowhead Research (Nasdaq: ARWR ) ), DuPont (NYSE: DD ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) . If investors want to land nanotech's next big fish, they might want to focus on firms like these, which aim to use nanotech to create a cheaper, stronger net.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is the author of two books on nanotechnology, including Investing in Nanotechnology: Think Small, Win Big. He owns stock in Harris & Harris. Intel is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.