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“Getting the government to change the way they kill people is difficult,” Carpenter says.

Because nanometal provides a higher concentration of energy while requiring fewer raw materials, the overall cost of these weapons would drop, according to Kevin Walter, vice president of technical business development at nanometals manufacturer Nanoscale Technologies.

“You get a little better bang for your buck,” Walter says.

The nanometals can be produced in particles as small as eight nanometers, Walter says, and then combined with other chemicals to create the explosive materials, which can also be used for non-military applications including pyrotechnics and explosives for mining.

Nanotechnology “could completely change the face of weaponry,” according to Andy Oppenheimer, a weapons expert with analyst firm and publisher Jane’s Information Group. Oppenheimer says nations including the United States, Germany, and Russia are developing “mini-nuke” devices that use nanotechnology to create much smaller nuclear detonators.

Oppenheimer says the devices could fit inside a briefcase and would be powerful enough to destroy a building. Although the devices require nuclear materials, because of their small size “they blur the line with conventional weapons,” Oppenheimer says.

The mini-nuke weapons are still in the research phase and may be surreptitiously funded since any form of nuclear proliferation is “politically contentious” because of the possibility that they could fall into the hands of terrorists, Oppenheimer says.

The creation of much smaller nuclear bombs adds new challenges to the effort to limit weapons of mass destruction, according to Oppenheimer.

“(The bombs) could blow open everything that is in place for arms control,” Oppenheimer says. “Everything gets more dangerous.”

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