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November 26th, 2007
Early next year, an advanced nanotech lithium-ion battery will allow a Toyota Prius owner to plug the car into a standard outlet to quickly charge it up for the day's commute. The batteries are on hardware store shelves now, inside DeWalt saws and other cordless power tools.
Meanwhile, a printing press will start to roll in San Jose, Calif., churning out foil by the yard imprinted with an ink made of nano-sized solar cell particles. The new process eventually could make it economical to turn any conceivable surface into a solar power collector.
Advocates say these advances mark the beginning of what will be a revolution in energy efficiency and environmental protection using nanotechnology — the manufacture of materials measured at the scale of 1 nanometer to 100 nanometers. The head of a pin is a million nanometers wide.
Yet lurking beneath the excitement is the unknown risk of releasing into the environment particles no bigger than atoms that can go where conventional-sized particles cannot, such as through the smallest filters or across cell membranes into cells, many advocates acknowledge.
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