Nanotechnology, for all its recent growth and vibrant promise, still feels very sci-fi to us laypersons, what with all those buckytubes and nanoceramics. Lars Berglund of Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology, though, is bringing the nanotech treatment to thoroughly familiar, if not boring, material: paper. By processing wood pulp with enzymes and high-pressure microfluidic chambers, he's been able to create paper with dramatically finer strands, offering some impressive improvements in mechanical characteristics. According to the article in MIT Technology Review, this "nanopaper" is "stronger than cast iron and tougher than bone," featuring a tear strength seven times that of conventional paper, and the ability to stretch by 10% before failure.
Applications suggested include extra-tough filters, membranes, packaging, and mechanical parts -- making that paper-core messenger bike in Gibson's Virtual Light one step closer to feasible.