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Small Science Big for Altair

This was originally sent to subscribers of Stocks Under $10 on April 5 at 12:01 p.m. EDT. For more information on this newsletter, click here.

We are constantly on the lookout for nontraditional investment ideas, especially ones that we call "story stocks." These are stocks whose share-price potential depends more on news and product announcements than earnings and cash flow results over the coming year or two. Altair Nanotechnologies (ALTI) fits this description, and we are adding it to our watch list of stocks that carry more risk than many of the other types of plays we consider.

In simplest terms, nanotechnology is the process of fabricating particles until they are the size of a molecule, or smaller. Using particles of this size, companies like Altair can build stronger materials that are more resistant to wear. In addition, the molecules are easier to manipulate and can be crafted into different forms and used in disparate sectors like medicine and batteries.

Altair Nanotechnologies develops applications for high-growth markets -- including advanced battery technology -- through its two segments, life sciences and performance materials. In life sciences, Altair's focus is on drug delivery. The company is working on a pill-coating application that advances the sustained release of medications. In performance materials, Altair is concentrating on batteries designed to be used in everything from electric cars to iPods.

Shares were recently trading at $3.55, and we believe risk-tolerant investors with long-term outlooks should consider taking a speculative position as the flow of information regarding Altair's new products picks up.

With the growth in consumer electronics products fueling technology-related stocks, investors are hungry for pure plays on advanced battery technology that powers devices longer between recharging. In fact, every portable electronic gadget, cell phone and hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) could benefit from advanced battery technology.

In February 2005, Altair announced a breakthrough in lithium ion electrode materials. Its technology enables batteries powering consumer electronic devices to last nearly three times longer than current lithium ion batteries. Altair is taking the technology a step further by introducing a nanostructured lithium titanate spinel anode, which further improves the batteries' life cycles.

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