Carbon nanotubes currently sell for 39 times the price of gold. The tubes are "the strongest thing you'll ever make out of anything in the universe," said Richard E. Smalley.

Stock prices in companies that deal with nanotechnology are soaring through the roof. Government leaders have called nanotechnology the "next industrial revolution," and predict that it could be worth $1 trillion in a decade.

"There isn't any human artifact that we manufacture that won't eventually be dependent on the kinds of discoveries being made in laboratories now," said Thomas Theis, head of physical science research at IBM.

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