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July 9th, 2007
Bacteria-proof forks and knives. Pants that never get stains. Computer chips with a considerably better memory, making conventional chips seem almost senile. Sports equipment made of materials that are much harder yet more lightweight than today.
Science fiction? Not at all, these products are readily available -- thanks to nanotechnology.
The somewhat outdated mantra "less is more" has probably never been more accurate than when it comes to nanotechnology. In this science, it's all about tiny details (nanos is the Greek word for dwarf). One nanoscale is a billionth of a meter, about 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
At that extremely small scale, very unusual properties of matter emerge. If you bring aluminum down to 20 nanometers, the surface-area-to-volume ratio changes so dramatically that explosions occur. This is why aluminum is used in rocket fuel to give some additional boost.
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