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Back in 2005, Ford announced plans to establish a joint nanotechnology initiative with Boeing at Northwestern University. It now appears that Ford is reaping early benefits from this initiative by finding innovative ways to use nanotechnology to improve some aspects of its existing business.
According to this recent news release, Ford expects to use new nanomaterials to reduce vehicle weight between 250 and 750 pounds (depending on vehicle type) without compromising safety. These materials, in turn, are expected to be an integral component of the company's strategy to improve fuel economy by 40% by 2020.
Now, Ford has a history of over promising and under-delivering; so I'm not suggesting the long-struggling automakers has turned a new corner and that it now represents a solid investment. I do, however, believe the company's activity in the area of nanotechnology bears watching.
This is especially true if the company can develop "smart" nanomaterials such as General Motors has already created and is now using to redesign certain aspects of its automobiles, including shape-shifting fenders and side panels. (This short article and video offers a quick primer on what some other applications might be.)
Longer-term, if Ford can manufacture nanoparticles and nanomaterials to develop better and longer-lasting batteries such as A123 Systems has created for companies like Black and Decker and GM, it will be a bullish sign.
It has been said that a long journey begins with a single step. Ford's efforts in nanotechnology to create lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles represents just such a small first step, but it will need to apply the "science of the small" to bigger opportunities if it wants to recapture some of its former glory.
About Jack Uldrich
Jack Uldrich is a writer, futurist, public speaker and host of jumpthecurve.net. He is the author of seven books, including Jump the Curve and The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. He is also a frequent speaker on future technology and future trends, nanotechnology, innovation, change management and executive leadership to a variety of businesses, industries and non-profit organizations and trade associations.
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