Yesterday, DuPont (NYSE:DD) announced an alliance with three smaller nanotechnology companies -- Morph Technologies, Integran Technologies, and PowderMetal Technologies -- to develop and commercialize a new nanocrystalline metal/polymer technology that is expected to lead to the creation of high-performance thermoplastics.

In the short term, I don't expect this development will be of much benefit to DuPont's bottom line, but it is precisely the type of move that will help the material sciences conglomerate stay competitive. Not only will the high-performance thermoplastics replace some metals in a variety of applications, but the unique characteristics of these nanomaterials will also allow designers and engineers more freedom to create new products.

In the past, I have noted how Ford (NYSE:F) and Boeing (NYSE:BA) are investing heavily in nanotechnology with the expectation that advances in nanomaterials will lead to safer, lighter, and more fuel-efficient automobiles and airplanes. DuPont is undoubtedly looking at these same markets, but it could also easily expand into the architectural and buildings trades.

For example, when one considers all the damage that hurricanes have imposed on coastal buildings over the past few years, or if one imagines the damage a massive earthquake causes, the benefits of creating materials that are stronger than steel but more flexible (and can thus better withstand the forces of Mother Nature) suddenly become more clear.

This development is yet another indication that nanotechnology is moving out of the research and development lab and into commercial products; and, from my perspective, this is great news for a company such as Harris & Harris (NASDAQ:TINY), which has invested aggressively in a host of the most promising private nanotechnology start-ups. I'm confident we will be seeing more such partnerships in the near future, as more Fortune 100 companies wake up to nanotechnology's potential.

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