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Small but imperfectly formed

VACUUM TUBES, semiconductors and the internet have changed how we live; now nanotechnology promises a similar revolution. Nanocoatings that make it impossible for liquid to even touch a treated surface are transforming material science. Carbon nanotubes can help artificial muscles behave like the real thing, while nanoscale drug delivery can target cancer cells with deadly accuracy. Concrete infused with nanofibres can be self-sensing, enabling roads and bridges to be monitored remotely for structural weakness or traffic volumes.

And last month, when Rafael Nadal lost the final of the 2014 Australian Open to Stanislas Wawrinka, his opponent’s $240 racquet was strengthened with nano-materials. Mr Nadal, meanwhile, was wearing a watch reinforced with carbon nanotubes—and costing almost $700,000.

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