Researchers say the real promise of nanotechnology will still take years of hard work in the lab.

They fear that if it is over-hyped, their work could fall victim to the sort of boom and bust cycle that has hit telecoms and businesses.

It sounds like science fiction, but researchers are predicting:

  • Powerful computers the size of a grain of sand, able to operate for decades on the power of a single wristwatch battery

  • ‘Smart’ fabrics that could sense heat or the presence of toxic chemicals and protect the wearer.

  • Nanoscale filters able to deactivate chemical weapons and clean the environment.