If we needed a reminder that "nano" is slowly approaching the radars of mainstream investors, then First Trust Portfolios has provided it with the launch of a nanotechnology mutual fund (ticker: FTNATX). This is the first commercial opportunity for those investors looking to dip their toes into the exquisitely small world of nanotechnology.

Punk Ziegel of New York could reasonably claim to have been the very first firm to put together a grouping of commercial nano companies, but that appears to be available only to its private banking clients. (If you are one of its clients, you can say, "Hey... my banker's a Punk!") But First Trust's nanotechnology portfolio can be bought by anyone with a minimum investment of $1,000 and an initial offer price of $10. Considering this is an unmanaged fund, the fees are steep with an initial sales charge of 1.05% with a limit running at a maximum of 4.95%.

There are 25 companies included in the fund with an interesting mix: 40% are small-cap growth stocks, and another 28% are large-cap growth stocks. These include General Electric (NYSE:GE), ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW), and Dupont (NYSE:DD). Yes, folks, these are nanotechnology companies. However, any nanotechnology they may develop over the period of time this fund is in existence will not impact the share prices of these behemoths in any meaningful way.

Among the small firms, we find a nano-materials company, Nanophase Technologies (NYSE:NANX); a nano-biotechnology company, Skyepharma (NASDAQ:SKYE); a nano-tool maker, Veeco Instruments (NASDAQ:VECO); and Headwaters Incorporated (NASDAQ:HDWR). The latter is included for its subsidiary Hydrocarbon Technologies, which is working on producing more cost efficient fossil fuels by the inclusion of nanoparticles in its proprietary catalytic processes. Also included in the fund is Harris & Harris (NASDAQ:TINY), a venture capitalist company specializing in VC investments in private nano companies.

You could invest in these small cap equities separately, but then you greatly increase your exposure to risk. The clever inclusion of the big caps in this fund does expose you to the potential growth from the small caps without all of the high risk that normally accompanies this type of potential growth.

This fund does expose you to all aspects of the current commercial nano picture, from the large caps working on nano developments to the small caps hoping to make it big in nano. There's even a limited exposure to some of those companies not yet public. It also excludes, it seems, those nano-pretenders who are building more hype than products.

Kudos to First Trust.

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Fool contributors Wherrett and Yelovich are better known as Caesium and Jat4 on The Motley Fool discussion boards. They welcome your input via email. Wherrett owns shares of Nanophase, but Yelovich doesn't own any of the companies mentioned.