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Five Reader Picks for Tech's Next Big Thing

Ultracapacitors are devices that store energy in much greater quantities than batteries. Maxwell Technologies began life in 1965 as government contractor Maxwell Laboratories. The company, headquartered in San Diego, now generates all of its revenue -- $45 million in 2005 -- from commercial customers. The stock has a market capitalization of $330 million.

Nanotube memory chips: "I'd submit the following disruptive technology. I'm in the semiconductor business, and I think the upcoming bottleneck out there is memory. Nantero is a company that has found a way to use existing semiconductor manufacturing processes and add carbon nanotubes to create a memory device that is three times more dense than any existing technology. It is like flashing memory (like the little USB "thumb" drives), but with storage sizes 1,000 times larger than existing hard drives. It is also nonvolatile, meaning it does not need to have constant power applied to it to maintain the memory states. To complete the scorecard, it is also as fast as existing DRAM memory technology." -- Mike.

Nantero is still a private company, but investors can own a piece of it through the publicly traded Harris & Harris Group (TINY - Get Report) nanotech portfolio (market capitalization $290 million). Nantero has so far raised $31 million in private investment from venture capital firms that include Charles River Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

High-density power converters. "I have a potentially disruptive technology company for you to look at. Vicor (VICR - Get Report) has come out with a new power converter that converts and manages electric power more efficiently and with higher power densities than ever before. Sony (SNE - Get Report) has licensed the technology from Vicor, and, I believe, the technology is also being used in conjunction with the new Cell microprocessor that is being made by IBM (IBM - Get Report), Sony and Toshiba." -- Fletcher.
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