Perhaps there isn't much for amateur scientists to do in the nano-realm...that seems largely the province of well-funded professional scientists. However, today's NYT has a great article about the activities of amateurs and their interest in helping NASA develop new technologies. One of the projects these amateurs are working on is the hypothetical space elevator, the construction of which would supposedly be enabled by carbon nanotubes.
Also discussed in the article is the role of NASA's prizes in stimulating inventors and entrepreneurial activity. This reflects views put forth earlier this year by CNS-UCSB National Advisory Board chair Tim Kalil about the value of prizes in stimulating technological development.