Nanotechnology: Very small Business

Nanotech is quietly seeping into everything from stain-resistant khakis to cancer drugs

Technologist Eric Drexler envisioned a future in which machines far smaller than dust motes would construct everything from chairs to rocket engines, atom by atom; in which microscopic robots would heal human ills, cell by cell. Sixteen years after the publication of Drexler's book Engines of Creation, the molecular-scale technologies most immediately available to consumers are somewhat less fantastic: stain-resistant khakis and more durable tennis balls.

Much of the hype is gone from nanotechnology, the term Drexler popularized for his world of very small wonders. But something more interesting has crept in: sales. The khakis and tennis balls are bringing in...

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