Carbon Nanotubes are Made of Virtue

It's true: you can sprinkle them on anything to make it better. Some examples:

  • Structures (obviously)
  • Reverse Osmosis membranes
  • Semiconductors
  • Fuel cells
  • Solar panels
  • Scaffolds for nerve regeneration

Certain technologies seem to have this magical quality of near-universal applicability to engineering problems. They not only make possible what would have been fantasy otherwise (space elevators, in the case of nanotubes) but also have a knack of improving everything they touch, or of being applied to a breathtaking variety of already-familiar applications.

The history of the laser as it made its way from a whim of Einstein's to indispensable component of 21st century technology is one example. Not even an Einstein could have predicted the incredible breadth of roles this invention would eventually assume, including:

  • CDs and DVDs
  • Cutting and machining operations
  • Communications
  • A huge variety of measurement and alignment applications
  • Heating things up, or ...
  • Cooling them down (!)
  • Vision correction
  • Tattoo removal

I'm surely not the first to think this way. There must be a general name for this class of technologies already, or at any rate there should be; perhaps a member of my astute readership can choose this moment to pipe up and help me out?

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