A few weeks back, I noted that billionaire investor Wilbur Ross' embrace of nanotechnology served as something of a validation that the technology was moving into the mainstream. Today, I came across a tiny one-paragraph article buried on page B10 of The Wall Street Journal disclosing that Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), which has been "working on nanotechnology for 12 years," has just reached the first licensing deal in its nanotechnology research.

In addition to supplying further evidence that nanotechnology is moving into the mainstream, the deal is significant for a couple of reasons. First, the technology HP is licensing can reportedly produce patterns on next-generation semiconductors as small as 15 nanometers. Today's smallest components, in comparison, are 45 nanometers in size. The technology, which has been licensed to Nanolithosolutions, accomplishes this feat by employing something called imprint nanolithography, which molds nanoscale patterns into the substrates that are used to manufacture semiconductors.

Second, and perhaps more important, the technology is very easy to install and can be incorporated into the conventional chip-making processes without much trouble. So, as Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD), IBM (NYSE:IBM), and others inevitably move into the realm of manufacturing components as small as 15nm -- something that could occur as early as 2010 -- they might well need to put this technology to work.

It is still a little early to get too excited about the development, because it will likely take some time before electronics, optics, and photonics companies have completed their due diligence on the technology and decide to incorporate it into their processes. But I suspect that many of these companies' research labs, as well as government and university research labs, will soon begin experimenting with the technology in their never-ending quest to stay ahead of the curve in the semiconductor industry.

If the tests go well and the technology works as promised, investors can expect this small technology to eventually make a favorable impression on HP's bottom line.

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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 Intel and IBM. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.