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Stronger than Steel, Thinner than Hair

A Quick Lunch about the Future

Written by Christian DeHaemer
Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:00PM

A group of us met for sushi at a posh Baltimore restaurant.

Judging by the crowd from Legg Mason and T. Rowe Price, there isn't a recession on (at least, there wasn't at this place).

Among others, Nick Hodge, publisher of the Outsider Club, was at the table.

The topic at hand was the big picture: What's the next big thing in our investing future?

Between bowls of miso soup and square plates piled with raw fish, things got real interesting...

You may not know it, but there is a powerful force at work today. We all agreed the long-term trend in the exponential growth of computer intelligence will make the changes brought on by the Internet or the automobile look pale by comparison.

This led to other conversations, and we talked with nostalgia about past technological changes. I remember as a kid in the 1970s hiding the TV dial so my brothers couldn't change the channel. The dial got lost, of course, and we spent years changing the channel with vice grips. (As it turns out, this is a common story.)

After a run through the deal technologies of yesteryear — Betamax, cassette tapes, floppy disks, etc. — Nick noted there was an acceleration in the rate of change.

He joked that the rate of nostalgia is increasing. What he meant by this is that dominant new trends that would once last a decade now last just a few years.

He went on to mention that his new Bose music system didn't even come with Blu-ray.

That's 'old' technology. It's dead.


You can see this phenomenon in the speed of companies...

Microsoft (NYSE: MSFT) was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975. It took them ten years to be relevant, and they really didn't take off until 1990, 15 years after they were founded...

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) was founded in 1998 and went public in a big way just six years later, in 2004.

Facebook got initial funding in May 2005 — and by January 2009, it was the most-used social networking service in the world. Again, that's four years.

Instagram went from zero to 30 million users in 18 months before being bought out for $1 billion.

Things not only change fast, but the pace of change is picking up. This has a lot to do with Moore's law, which says computing power doubles every 18 months. And this exponential growth has offshoots in other ways...

Nick — who's made his readers a small fortune by getting in early on the 3D printing phenomenon — suddenly looked up from his noodles and said, “Graphene.”

Now, I had done some research on nanotech stocks in the past and had some familiarity with graphene. I knew that it won two scientists the Nobel Prize back in 2010.

Furthermore, I know it's a material that was created with one-atom thick layers of graphite and that it has amazing properties.

But I was eager to hear more — and I was a bit surprised that the state of the industry had advanced so far so fast...

What's the next big thing in our investing future?

Nick went on: “Graphene is one million times thinner than the human hair, 300 times stronger than steel, and 1,000 times more conductive than silicon. As you know, graphene is a one-atom thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. This unique structure allows electrical currents to move faster than in any other known material."

But it gets better...

Because this material is so thin, it is perfectly transparent and flexible.

“It will be used in solar cells, communication devices, and every kind of material that needs to be thin, strong, and/or conduct electricity. Windows of the future will also be computer displays... Electronic displays can and will be anywhere. And everywhere.”

This is truly a life-changing material.

But what amazed me most was the advancement in how the material is made...

Just a few years ago, the only graphene available was in thin micro flakes. Nick explained that Samsung recently showed off a piece 30 inches in diameter. Perhaps in a year or two, we will be rolling out graphene like we do rolled steel or newspapers.

Thanks for stopping by,

Christian DeHaemer Signature

Christian DeHaemer

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Since 1995, Christian DeHaemer has specialized in frontier market opportunities. He has traveled extensively and invested in places as varied as Cuba, Mongolia, and Kenya. Chris believes the best way to make money is to get there first with the most. Christian is the founder of Bull and Bust Report and an editor at Energy and Capital. For more on Christian, see his editor's page.


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