How often has your smartphone died during a conference call with your biggest client, or while you're enjoying the highlight replays of your favorite team's latest win?
A new substance that you've probably never heard of could end that worry – and a few others, as well.
Just created at the University of Buffalo, this advanced substance is billed as a portable hydrogen fuel cell. Just add water, and the chemical reaction will yield an instant way to charge your cellphone's dead battery.
Not surprisingly, the research team that invented it believes this new form of silicon could also be a big hit with the military … once the substance is ready for sale, that is.
On its face, this sounds like another bit of technological wizardry … the kind of invention each of us probably reads about several times a week. But if you take a step back, and look at the big picture as I have, you'll see that there's something much more powerful – and dynamic – taking place here.
You see, we've now entered what I refer to as the "Golden Age of Materials Science." I've been watching this sector for more than 25 years and I've never seen so much innovation occurring at one time.
And that means the profit potential in this overlooked sector is big – and getting bigger with each new discovery.
Industry insiders refer to the product of these research programs as "exotic materials." And that's actually a most appropriate term.
I began following these exotic discoveries during my time as a journalist – as part of my coverage of President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program. So I know how these compounds span the entire field of technology, in defense and military applications, in telecommunications, and even in biosensors that warn you about an anthrax attack.
That background has proved invaluable in recent years. It's why I was able to recommend rare-earth investments to my trading-service subscribers in the summer of 2010 – a full year ahead of my rivals. Readers who acted on my recommendations scored triple-digit gains in just over a year's time.
So you can see why I'm always on the hunt for the Next Big Thing in polymers, specialty coatings, composites and biomedical gels. They'll all help drive the pace of innovation in the Era of Radical Change. And they will bring us plenty of profit opportunities.
And there's no shortage of breakthroughs to act on. Just take a look…
A Coating Makes Your Clothes "Spill-Proof"
Ask any parent (or long-drive commuter) to name a high-tech invention that would make their life easier and I guarantee you that stain-proof clothing would be high on the list.
So, the creators of a new material that can repel most known liquids clearly have a built-in market for their new advance. The team sees a big future for spill-proof clothing, which can repel substances – like ketchup and blood – that almost always leave stains.
Without giving specifics, team members say the new substance could wrack up sales in industry. That's because this new approach also would work for a new line of protective garments.
The researchers combined materials with different textures to create what they call "superomniphobic" surfaces, ones that will repel just about anything.
You name it, and the stuff will easily roll and bounce off on the new surfaces, making them ideal for protectingmaterials from the effects of chemicals. This technology could also be used to create special coatings, including some that resist corrosion or that won't let bacteria take hold or grow.
And that's not the only material with a biotech application…
This Biodegradable Hydrogel Means Death for Deadly Bacteria
We've all read about the growing menace of "superbugs" – the microbes that have developed resistance not just to one type but to several forms of antibiotics.
The world's first "antimicrobial hydrogel" does its job by breaking up the thin films those microbes need to grow and reproduce. Team members say the new hydrogel destroys the killer bugs upon contact.
Because it's 90% water, the new gel is very flexible. It's biodegradable, making it safe for patients and the general population. What's more, the gel can target the bacteria and fungi behind some of the most common infections that occur in hospitals – including those virulent enough to kill.
The hydrogel is based on a new polymer the team recently discovered. Team members said that by using new polymer as a basic building block,material scientists will be able to provide a comprehensive antimicrobial solution that can combat drug-resistant bacteria and fungi for a range of medical and consumer products.
Silica Nanowires Could Beat Fiber Optics in Computing
Fiber-optic technology has been around for years. But it's only recently come into its own because of the high-speed Internet. Because light travels along them, as opposed to electricity on copper wires, fiber-optic cables can be a real boon for computer networks.
But the fiber itself is far from perfect. And one of the biggest problems is cost. The cables are several times more expensive than standard wires. That's kept fiber optics from being used more often in local area networks (LANs) for industry.
So you can see why a new advance for self-forming nanowires could be so huge. Not only do they form themselves, but the hair-thin wires are made of silica, a form of silicon widely used in high tech and electronics.
A team from France and Australia says silica wires are cheaper than fiber optics, and are also more rugged. And computer networks aren't the only application: The nanowires could find uses inside integrated circuits for electronics, in biological sensors, and even in photovoltaic cells for solar power.
An Easy Way to Profit
Even though these particular advances may take a while to get to market, many innovative materials are already being used – and the stories I shared today show that new "exotics" are being created all the time.
There's actually an easy way to play this … to invest in what's already available and to be positioned for new innovations that make their way into the marketplace. Best of all: It doesn't require you to bear the risk of trying to pick the winners.
We'll do this by investing in one, or all, of three exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that focus on the materials sector. These three provide a good exposure to chemical firms, as well as to other resources such as metals.
Over the past six months, the Vanguard Materials ETF (NYSEArca: VAW) is up about 10%, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Basic Materials ETF (NYSEArca: IYM) is up about 8% and the Materials Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLB) has gained 8.5% in the period.
In the meantime, we'll continue to tell you about the exotic materials that are changing our lives here in the Era of Radical Change.
We'll tell you when and how those "exotics" are making their way from the research labs … into the marketplace … and into your home.
The "Golden Age of Materials Science" isn't just about innovation. It's also one of the biggest wealth-creating opportunities of our time.
So you can be sure that we'll continue to bring you the best profit opportunities you'll find anywhere.
And that's a promise …
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About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.