December 13, 2000   

   Nanotube fabric looms large
Flags that generate electricity, bulletproof eveningwear and microscopic machines seem less fantastic now that researchers have figured out how to make fibers out of carbon nanotubes. The key was getting the tiny tubes to line up in order to translate their unusual properties to the larger world.
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Silicon nanocrystals glow
The promised land of integrated electronics is a single chip that can handle both light and electricity. Tiny clumps of silicon atoms embedded in an insulator could point the way there.

Exploratory robot hops and rolls
Researchers who design robots for exploring other planets are beginning to copy animals. But it looks like wheels are still the easiest way to travel over relatively smooth terrain.

Lasers flex gel muscles
Gels that expand and contract look an awful lot like tiny muscles, but one problem is they move slowly. A team of researchers has found that a particular gel has pretty good reflexes when you zap it with a laser.

Atomic scale wire speeds electrons
It turns out that superconductors, and the ridiculously cold environments they operate in, aren't the only way to speed up the flow of electrons. Making metal wires very, very thin helps keep electrons on the straight and narrow.

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