There are many types of intentionally produced nanomaterials, and a variety of others are expected to appear in the future.
Types of Nanomaterials
For the purpose of this article, most current nanomaterials could be organized into four types:
• Carbon Based Materials
• Metal Based Materials
Carbon Based Materials
These nanomaterials are composed mostly of carbon, most commonly taking the form of a hollow spheres, ellipsoids, or tubes. Spherical and ellipsoidal carbon nanomaterials are referred to as fullerenes, while cylindrical ones are called nanotubes. These particles have many potential applications, including improved films and coatings, stronger and lighter materials, and applications in electronics.
Metal Based Materials
These nanomaterials include quantum dots, nanogold, nanosilver and metal oxides, such as titanium dioxide. A quantum dot is a closely packed semiconductor crystal comprised of hundreds or thousands of atoms, and whose size is on the order of a few nanometers to a few hundred nanometers. Changing the size of quantum dots changes their optical properties.
These nanomaterials are nanosized polymers built from branched units. The surface of a dendrimer has numerous chain ends, which can be tailored to perform specific chemical functions. This property could also be useful for catalysis. Also, because three-dimensional dendrimers contain interior cavities into which other molecules could be placed, they may be useful for drug delivery.
Composites combine nanoparticles with other nanoparticles or with larger, bulk-type materials. Nanoparticles, such as nanosized clays, are already being added to products ranging from auto parts to packaging materials, to enhance mechanical, thermal, barrier, and flame-retardant properties.
The unique properties of these various types of intentionally produced nanomaterials give them novel electrical, catalytic, magnetic, mechanical, thermal, or imaging features that are highly desirable for applications in commercial, medical, military, and environmental sectors. These materials may also find their way into more complex nanostructures and systems. As new uses for materials with these special properties are identified, the number of products containing such nanomaterials and their possible applications continues to grow.