The Nano-Industrial Revolution is Here
Throughout history, the key to becoming a global superpower has been to think big.
Bigger territories… bigger populations… bigger economies… bigger militaries.
But in the 21st century, the masters of the world will the ones who master thinking small.
I’m talking about nanotechnology.
Nano is a Greek word for “small.” For our purposes, it means microscopic, sub-microscopic and down to the molecular and even atomic level.
On Feb. 8, I told you about the Harvard professor — chairman of its Department of Chemistry, no less — who was arrested and charged by the U.S. government in connection with espionage for China.
He’s also a leader in the field of “nano-chemistry.”
Per the FBI arrest affidavit, the professor failed to disclose to the U.S. government that he was being paid over $50,000 per month to perform research in China… and to teach Chinese scientists about nano-chemistry.
There’s a good reason why China’s government was willing to pay that kind of cash. Its autocrats know that nano-chemistry is the foundation of the next industrial revolution.
Indeed, nano-tech is a new realm of science in the 21st century. It’s key to developing new products — and weapons — of tomorrow.
Whoever masters “nano” will control the next hundred years!
And so, the “Nano-Industrial Revolution” is upon us.
Here are some of the basics…
Not long ago, I met one of the most senior scientists in the U.S. government. He holds a PhD in physics. He formerly worked at NASA, ran the engineering department at a major university and managed a U.S. national laboratory. Now he works with the Navy.
This distinguished fellow made an interesting point: for all of human history, people worked with what he called “found stuff.”
“Whether it was cavemen using stones and tree branches, or modern people smelting iron or copper ore,” he said, “everything has been based on materials found in nature.”
Now though, “we’re not just using ‘found stuff’ or even alloys of metal. We’re creating new things that are more than natural substances. We’re creating new substances that are actual devices; call them micro-machines. They perform physical work and accomplish tasks at the molecular and atomic scale.”
The man continued, “These new things do not exist in nature. You don’t mix them like an alloy. You have to design and build them, literally one atom or molecule at a time.”
This is what we mean when we talk about nano-chemistry and nanotechnology.
It’s not just making new chemical substances, like the chemists who developed nylon or rayon back in the 1930s.
Today, scientists are building novel, molecular-level machines. They’re in use right now, all over the world.
In fact, they’re currently helping save American soldiers’ lives… and have been doing so for quite some time.
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s, some of the worst weapons U.S./allied forces encountered were improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Basically, they were big mines. A group of soldiers would be walking or driving down a road and… Kaboom! The bomb would go off.
So early in the war, the U.S. government put big money into detecting IEDs.
One privately held company came up with a device that acted like the highly sensitive nose of a bomb-sniffing dog. It “sniffed” the air for the presence of various explosives and sent out a warning if it found any.
The technology involves molecular imprinted polymers (MIPs) — nano-systems that are perfectly matched to the chemistry of commonly used explosives in IEDs.
That is, an explosive substance is a chemical compound made of certain kinds of molecules. The molecules have a certain shape; a certain relationship of atoms into a chemical form.
It just so happens that explosives release molecules into the air, like how water evaporates from ice. And with the right sensor, you can detect explosive molecules.
So to get the “right” kind of sensor, you need to create a companion molecule that’s a perfect counterpart to the explosive.
Think of how a baseball player’s mitt is “broken in” to the shape of a baseball. The ball fits perfectly into the mitt. A larger softball won’t properly fit a broken-in baseball mitt. A football definitely won’t fit.
This bomb-sniffing application of nanotechnology works on the same principle.
To detect explosives, you create a “sensor” molecule — a nano-machine — that’s exactly matched to what the enemy uses in the IEDs. When the sensor detects explosive molecules (and there’s plenty more tech involved here), it triggers a warning.
Seems complex, and it is. But it works. Indeed, it has saved many lives and limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So where is that tech now? Glad you asked…
The principles of IED-sniffing nanotech have migrated into both mining and marijuana/hemp!
Full disclosure: I know plenty about mining. I’m not so smart about marijuana/hemp. But I do get the chemistry…
Here’s an example from the gold mining side.
A mining company blasts rock and mines gold-bearing ore, then crushes and piles the ore into a large “heap.” The heap gets soaked with sodium cyanide, which leaches out the gold from the crushed rock.
The sodium cyanide, containing gold, is called a “pregnant solution.” It gets pumped from the bottom of the heap and goes through a filtration system that includes activated charcoal. Carbon in the charcoal strips gold from the solution.
This process works pretty well — recovering 80–95% of the available gold. But it also means 5% to 20% (or more) of the gold doesn’t get recovered. It adds up to serious money when you’re mining gold (currently in the range of $1,575 per ounce).
MIP technology can solve that problem. The man-made nano-molecules can be constructed to recover gold from the carbon system, if not from the original gold-bearing solution.
These nano-machines just scavenge for gold. They have one job. They don’t pick up anything else. MIP increases gold recovery from solution and/or activated charcoal into the 99.9% range, with comparable purities.
Is this tech for real? Does it work? Yes…
Right now one of the largest gold companies in the world is testing the MIP nanotech to recover gold from the carbon-circuit. So far, it’s seen favorable results. I’m under confidentiality agreement not to disclose more details. But, yes… It’s fair to say that it works!
The tech is also applicable to the marijuana/hemp industry, where extracting pure chemicals out of many others is of paramount importance.
Growers harvest marijuana or hemp, crush the plants and put them into a reactor vessel. Then they close it, heat it and introduce a specific, purpose-built MIP nanotech to scavenge for the active ingredient, called CBD.
A few hours later, the MIP nanomolecules come out of the reactor and go to a discharge system. This delivers essentially pharmaceutical-grade CBD — super-high recovery (forgive the pun) and over 99% pure.
There’s additional tech involved in refining the product, of course. But MIP nanotech is key to making the overall process work.
Again, I’m under confidentiality agreement not to disclose details. But, yes… it works! In fact, there are systems out there creating pharmaceutical-grade CBD.
I could spend all day discussing new developments in nanotech. These examples of MIP are just a start. I’ll discuss more in future articles.
Of course, this is Whiskey & Gunpowder. We’re not in investment newsletter, and we don’t make investment recommendations. But yes, this new tech is investable.
In the world of nanotech, things happen fast. News breaks almost weekly.
Here’s the takeaway: The Nano-Industrial Revolution is happening right now, out there and practically under our collective nose. In many respects, it’s hiding in plain sight.
This Nano-Industrial Revolution will change your life in ways that we can’t begin to imagine. The whole thing is based on astonishing, cutting-edge science.
I’m following it, and I’ll point out some of the best ideas as they become clearer.
On that note, I rest my case.
That’s all for now… Thank you for subscribing and reading.
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
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