Nanotechnology promises to shake up everything from dry cleaning to conductive polymers and printable electronics to how we wage war, author Jack Uldrich said at Antec 2007.
``We're just at the tip of the iceberg. This is just the start of the nanotechnology revolution,'' Uldrich said in a keynote speech at the Society of Plastics Engineers' technical conference, held May 6-11 in Cincinnati.
Uldrich wrote the book, The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology will change the Future of Your Business. His experience in the plastics industry dates to the mid-1990s, when he was the American Plastics Council's chief lobbyist for the Midwest region.
Huge amounts of government and private-sector money are flowing into nanomaterials research, he said.
Quoting a study by the U.S. government, Uldrich said that nanotechnology will spur more changes in the next 25 years than society saw in the last century - a dizzying pace of change that will be unsettling for industries and workers, but offer thrilling changes.
``Nanotechnology is the enabling technology that is going to fuel the exponential economy,'' where knowledge will keep doubling.
Already, the plastics industry is using nano-sized particles as fillers in common items, to add barrier properties to film and bottles, or improve stiffness and other properties. But even your corner dry cleaner will have to face the nanorevolution.
Uldrich interrupted his speech to pour a glass of soda on his nano-treated, no-stain tie. The liquid rolled right off.
He said nanotechnology also is being used to make synthetic diamonds and pitch-perfect violins that can mimic - or even improve upon - a Stradivarius.
In the future, nanotechnology will play a key role in what Uldrich called ``electroactive'' polymers, which could be used to build exoskeleton suits. The high-tech suits could give a nurse the strength to lift a bed-ridden patient. The innovation also could turn soldiers into a superfighting force.