When Carl Wherrett and John Yelovich provided their excellent commentary on nanotechnology, all the usual electronics suspects were there: IBM (NYSE:IBM), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Intel (NYSE:INTC), Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN), and Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD). Now add General Electric (NYSE:GE) to that list.

The company announced its nanotechnology breakthrough as a cover story for "Applied Physics Letters." Don't have a subscription? Well, GE has developed the world's best performing diode built from a carbon nanotube. It's small. It's fast. It's a key to GE's technology future.

For those saying, "What does this mean?" GE offers the following quote: "Just as silicon transistors replaced old vacuum tube technology and enabled the electronic age, carbon nanotube devices could open a new era of electronics." Initial applications, which are just starting to be developed, include computing, communications, power electronics, and sensors.

GE's breakthrough is continuing proof that the road to smaller, faster, and cheaper electronics is still on the horizon. The promise of advanced sensors that enable enhanced security at airports, office buildings and other public areas also provides hope to those worried about terrorism.

The nanoelectronics marketplace is crowded with giants. But, as Carl and John said, "Investors should know that nanotechnology is not likely to produce a revolutionary upstart that will leapfrog the established electronic giants with advanced technology. We're not saying it's impossible for a true Rule Breaker to emerge, but it won't be easy. With fabrication plants costing $2 billion to $4 billion each, it probably will be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies to land the kind of financing it would take to unseat firms with deeper coffers."

For GE shareholders, the breakthrough confirms the company is well positioned in nanotechnology -- and there is technology being developed for the long-term to keep the Motley Fool Income Investor-tempting 2.5% dividend flowing into shareholders' pockets.

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Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.