Last Look

Eau de nano

Mark Morosse

Mark Morosse

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Being a mechanical engineer, Jan Schroers never expected to work in high fashion. But last year, the Yale scientist got a call from Chanel. An executive there had read about his research on the high-strength, lightweight alloys called amorphous metals. Schroers is patenting a technique for blow-molding these metals into almost any shape, while imprinting nanoscale surface details no bigger than a few atoms -- far finer than ordinary metals can register. "These materials are harder than steel but as easy to form as plastics," says Schroers.

Could he reproduce Chanel's signature perfume bottle in metal? he was asked. No problem. At top right is the mold, at lower left the raw material, and, at bottom, two half-bottles -- sliced open to show the thinness of the walls.

Next stop, Prada. 

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