According to a Guardian UK article, nanotechnology-enhanced fabrics are expected to see a big growth in international sales in the next four years. The increase from $122m in 2007 to $2.17b (a whopping 1700% increase) suggests that nanofabrics are becoming a major industry segment, with more growth probable going forward. With investment mounting and academic interest at an all time high, some very creative applications are gaining traction, including antimicrobial fabric that tricks bacteria into attacking nanospheres, thereby releasing dyes that both mark the presence of the bacteria as well as kill them. This allows medical personnel to immediately see where bacterial contamination has occurred even as the fabric is sterilizing itself. This sort of application has great potential to be expanded in medical applications, and may be extended to industries where benign microorganisms are used such as breweries, or even the food industry as a whole where it could help sterilize and detect contamination in food processing. It is possible the technology might be extended to clothing used for infants and individuals with compromised immune systems as well.
In other noteworthy news, University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers have perfected a system for growing single-atom layers of graphene, a nano-scale carbon material with great promise for use in the electronics industry. This promises far lower power requirements for microprocessors as well as order-of-magnitude increases in speed.
Research in nanotechnology is expanding rapidly, to the point that it is getting hard to keep track of it. New product launches can be expected to increase rapidly in the next decade and it has become increasingly difficult to see where this new technology might take us. I expect that investors are having to focus more tightly on particular developments and emerging markets involving nanotechnology, but big corporations such as Intel are following developments closely and openly encouraging programs like that at UCSB. Stay tuned as more amazing concepts and products are likely.