Nanotech is Officially Over

The cover of next week’s issue of Business Week is nanotechnology. For those of you keeping track of magazines as contrarian signals, that officially means that the current enthusiasm for nanotechnology has peaked. I just thought folks might like to know:

The Business Of Nanotech
There’s still plenty of hype, but nanotechnology is finally moving from the lab to the marketplace. Get ready for cars, chips, and golf balls made with new materials engineered down to the level of individual atoms

Pity the poor alchemists. They spent the Middle Ages in candle-lit laboratories, laboring to brew universal elixirs and to turn base metals into gold or silver. They failed utterly. By the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, researchers equipped with microscopes founded modern chemistry — and dismissed alchemy as hocus-pocus.

But it turns out alchemists were just a few centuries ahead of schedule. Today, in sparkling labs equipped with powerful microscopes, scientists on three continents are promising dramatic new materials and medicines that would make alchemists proud. This work takes place in the realm of nanotechnology, industry’s tiniest stage. The standard unit of measurement, a nanometer, is a billionth of a meter — barely the size of 10 hydrogen atoms in a row. In this universe entire dramas can unfold on the tip of a pin, and a sneeze packs the punch of a raging hurricane.


  1. There is litle doubt that the hype over Nanotech has reached a fever pitch.
    But I’m not sure if nano-tech is enough of a public stock phenomena to work well as an investment signal. There are a handful of tradable stocks (TINY, NANO, etc.), but they are essentially micro-caps. The HPs and IBMs of the world derive so little of their revenue from their Nano tech/research, I would be reluctant to short them as a contra Nano play in the space either.
    I would imagine the Nano / BW cover as roughly the equivalent of NASA or a Saturn rocket being on the cover of Life magazine in the early 1960s or 70s. It might represent the peak in the popular imagination — or even the pop culture, but Aerospace was not a bad place to be in the ensuing cold war years.

  2. Hi Barry — Essentially, I agree with you. I was being my provocative self in declaring nano over, when my root view is closer to yours: We have hit a nano peak in the popular imagination, but the economic peak of nanotechnology is still in front of us.
    Now, where I differ with you (somewhat) is that I think there were more obvious places to make money from space enthusiasm in the 60s/70s than there are to make money from nano today. Even nano’s biggest boosters concede mass markets are likely decades away.

  3. Cynically, BW could simply be priming the public money pump for nano investment. How many VC funded nano startups are poised and/or desperate to seek a public infusion of cash? Nothing like a little rah-rah publicity to stimulate demand.

  4. Strongly agree PK. BW has gone from a somewhat critical and insightful publication to a bland, naively optimistic account of what most intelligent people already know. I cancelled my subscription a year ago but still leaf through it at the gym when someone leaves one around (almost every week). Glad I stopped giving them money, its amazing how they have jumped on the CNBC “naive optimist” bandwagon. The “economic outlook” section (printed on a brown background) in particular reads likke it was written by the government (YOU ARE HAPPY. WE ARE PRODUCTIVE. BUY MORE CRAP).

  5. How’s this for closure of a loop: Last week, Paul referenced my discussion on Mag covers, and I responded here.
    Today, Paul pointed to Fortune’s Apple cover, which I was in the process of writing about . . . (see link above)
    I think this now completes the circle.