Far From a

We asked at the beginning of this chapter whether nanotechnology might be a kernel of utility buried in a heap of hype. It's clear that this is not the case. The problems that nanotechnology is already solving are fundamental; their solution is clearly valuable.

We asked whether the continued evolution of other approaches might make nanotechnology always interesting, but never attractive in the mass market. That scenario has already been left behind. Nanomaterials are not merely competitive, but are poised on the threshold of becoming the dominant choice for many tasks.

We asked whether nanotechnology would remain forever a theoretical or philosophical possibility, but always blocked from widespread use in practical manufacturing or other mainstream situations. Again, that question has already been answered by existing uses, such as fabric treatments and drug-delivery tools, with additional answers in the successful prototyping of new types of nanoscale mechanical component or full-scale consumer electronics devices.

Not a fad, but a trend; not a field in itself, but a transformation in nearly every field of technology. If there's bad news, it's that nanotechnology may be the next commodity: The mere ability to fabricate and produce basic materials at the nanoscale may command unexciting profit margins beyond the time frame of the 2010s, or at latest the 2020s.

The good news, though, is that the resulting new technology foundations will enable explosions of new value on the upper levels of industry, medicine, and lifestyle.

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