Collaboration between the military and Boston's mega-watt academic minds is nothing new. Researchers at MIT perfected radar for military use during World War II.
But nano-technology is a whole new world. It's the science of objects far smaller than the width of a human hair.
For instance, when Ms. Frick and Mr. Bruet use scanning-electron microscopes or atomic-force microscopes to look at the seashells, they see what looks like a wall of bricks. The "bricks" are five microns long and one micron tall. (A human hair is 80 microns wide.)
Nature, they explain, has taken relatively weak materials and created a structure - the brick wall - that is impressively tough. Using nano-construction techniques, the ISN will eventually try to mimic that structure with super-strong materials, thus creating a lightweight - and bulletproof - substance.