by Adam Benjamin | September 19, 2013 7:00 am
Most of us carry around fully functional computers in our pockets, so it’s easy take advanced technology for granted. But every once in a while, scientists and engineers come up with something so cool, you can’t help but sit back and do your best Keanu Reeves impression.
Researchers in Spain recently showed off the latest awe-inspiring breakthrough: a self-healing polymer. Basically, it’s a substance that repairs itself without the need for adhesives or catalysts. If it breaks, you just set it back together and let the polymer bond back together.
But that’s not the only science-fiction technology that exists, now. The future is here, and it’s brought to you by plenty of publicly-traded companies.
Solar power isn’t exactly new — the first major advancements were made back in the 19th century.
But you have to admit that the technology is futuristic. In a world that is still largely run on fossil fuels, the idea of powering things with sunlight kind of seems like sorcery. But it makes sense — the sun just sits up there, spewing out energy, so we’d be pretty stupid not to do something with it.
Publicly traded solar companies haven’t exactly had an easy time of things, though. Solyndra and Evergreen Solar both went bankrupt two years ago, and companies like First Solar (FSLR) and Sunpower (SPWR) are still way off their highs from 2007 and 2008, despite strong runs this year.
If solar power is sorcery, then NeverWet is something akin to dark magic.
The Rust-Oleum product is a superhydrophobic water repellent, which basically means it uses its magical powers to repel water in all forms. Rain, mud, snow — all of it basically rolls off the surface. It’s primarily used for hardware and construction, and sadly not recommended for use on electronics.
Rust-Oleum isn’t publicly traded, but it has plenty of competitors who can’t be far behind on these kinds of protective substances. Companies like 3M (MMM) and DuPont (DD) probably have competing products in R&D right now.
In terms of simple function, 3-D printing doesn’t seem that futuristic. Machines have been manufacturing things for hundreds of years. But they’ve never been doing it like this.
3-D printing gives consumers the ability to design and print almost anything they can come up with. Sure, there are limitations, which is why we’ve said 3-D printer stocks haven’t really taken off yet. But the possibilities go far beyond designing custom action figures for your kids. People are experimenting with 3-D printing organic matter.
Imagine the future where world hunger is solved by “printing” meat. Or where your doctor can tell you, “Your heart is going to give out. We need to print you a new one.”
3-D printing stocks like 3D Systems (DDD), up 48% year-to-date, are still in their infancies. There’s plenty more to come.
Perhaps one of the most pervasive fears in science fiction is the concept of lethal, autonomous robots.
We’re not talking about friendlier robots like Honda’s (HMC) ASIMO. Those are plenty futuristic, but as the saying goes, you have to have robots before you can have killer robots.
And now we have both. Samsung’s (SSNLF) sentry guard robots are currently stationed in the demilitarized zone between the Koreas.
We’re not just talking about a gun on an automated trigger, either. These sentries have “the ability to detect, give warning and provide suppressive fire against intruders.” Between this and the debate about unmanned drones patrolling the U.S., we’re clearly entering a new age of automated security. Just beware Skynet.
Nanotechnology is one of the most futuristic concepts that isn’t time travel (which sadly did not make this list).
It’s a complicated subject matter that’s probably best described by the experts:
“Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at the nanoscale, at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at this length scale.”
So what does that mean in practice? Biotech companies deal heavily in nanotechnology, looking at chemical reactions on a tiny scale and manufacturing new chemicals to alter those reactions. Companies like Inovio (INO) depend on it to create and test their products.
Whether all of this technology is a good thing depend on your personality, and probably how much science fiction you’ve read. But there’s no denying that we’ve launched ourselves into a tech-fueled future.
Adam Benjamin is an Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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