What are the Different Types of Nanoparticles?

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Nanotechnology deals with various structures of matter having dimensions of the order of a billionth of a meter. From the advent of nanotechnology, people realized that certain materials can exhibit different properties based on its size and shape.

It all started after the famous lecture, “There is plenty of room at the bottom” given by Richard Feynman on December 29, 1959. Nanomaterials are intermediate between macroscopic solid and of atomic and molecular systems.

Nanomaterials have certain properties which make them different from that of the bulk materials, including large fraction of surface atoms, high surface energy, spatial confinement, and reduced imperfections.

Different types of nanoparticles

Nanoparticles can be classified into different types according to the size, morphology, physical and chemical properties. Some of them are carbon-based nanoparticles, ceramic nanoparticles, metal nanoparticles, semiconductor nanoparticles, polymeric nanoparticles and lipid-based nanoparticles.

Carbon-Based Nanoparticles

Carbon-based nanoparticles include two main materials: carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and fullerenes. CNTs are nothing but graphene sheets rolled into a tube. These materials are mainly used for the structural reinforcement as they are 100 times stronger than steel.

CNTs can be classified into single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs). CNTs are unique in a way as they are thermally conductive along the length and non-conductive across the tube.

Fullerenes are the allotropes of carbon having a structure of hollow cage of sixty or more carbon atoms. The structure of C-60 is called Buckminsterfullerene, and looks like a hollow football. The carbon units in these structures have a pentagonal and hexagonal arrangement. These have commercial applications due to their electrical conductivity, structure, high strength, and electron affinity.

Ceramic Nanoparticles

Ceramic nanoparticles are inorganic solids made up of oxides, carbides, carbonates and phosphates. These nanoparticles have high heat resistance and chemical inertness. They have applications in photocatalysis, photodegradation of dyes, drug delivery, and imaging.

By controlling some of the characteristics of  ceramic nanoparticles like size, surface area, porosity, surface to volume ratio, etc, they perform as a good drug delivery agent. These nanoparticles have been used effectively as a drug delivery system for a number of diseases like bacterial infections, glaucoma, cancer, etc.

Metal Nanoparticles

Metal nanoparticles are prepared from metal precursors. These nanoparticles can be synthesized by chemical, electrochemical, or photochemical methods. In chemical methods, the metal nanoparticles are obtained by reducing the metal-ion precursors in solution by chemical reducing agents. These have the ability to adsorb small molecules and have high surface energy.

These nanoparticles have applications in research areas, detection and imaging of biomolecules and in environmental and bioanalytical applications. For example gold nanoparticles are used to coat the sample before analyzing in SEM. This is usually done to enhance the electronic stream, which helps us to get high quality SEM images.

Semiconductor Nanoparticles

Semiconductor nanoparticles have properties like those of metals and non-metals. They are found in the periodic table in groups  II-VI, III-V or IV-VI. These particles have wide bandgaps, which on tuning shows different properties. They are used in photocatalysis, electronics devices, photo-optics and water splitting applications.

Some  examples of semiconductor nanoparticles are GaN, GaP, InP, InAs from group III-V, ZnO, ZnS, CdS, CdSe, CdTe are II-VI semiconductors and silicon and germanium are from group IV.

Polymeric Nanoparticles

Polymeric nanoparticles are organic based nanoparticles. Depending upon the method of preparation, these have structures shaped like nanocapsular or nanospheres. A nanosphere particle has a matrix-like structure whereas the nanocapsular particle has core-shell morphology. In the former, the active compounds and the polymer are uniformly dispersed whereas in the latter the active compounds are confined and surrounded by a polymer shell.

Some of the merits of polymeric nanoparticles are controlled release, protection of drug molecules, ability to combine therapy and imaging, specific targeting and many more. They have applications in drug delivery and diagnostics. The drug deliveries with polymeric nanoparticles are highly biodegradable and biocompatible.

Lipid-Based Nanoparticles

Lipid nanoparticles are generally spherical in shape with a diameter ranging from 10 to 100nm. It consists of a solid core made of lipid and a matrix containing soluble lipophilic molecules. The external core of these nanoparticles is stabilized by surfactants and emulsifiers. These nanoparticles have application in the biomedical field as a drug carrier and delivery and RNA release in cancer therapy.

Thus, the field of nanotechnology is far from being saturated and it is, as the statistic says, sitting on the staircase of an exponential growth pattern. It is basically at the same stage as the information technology was in the 1960s and biotechnology in the year of 1980s. Thus it can easily be predicted that this field would witness a same exponential growth as the other two technological field witnessed earlier.


  1. Khan, Ibrahim, Khalid Saeed, and Idrees Khan. "Nanoparticles: Properties, applications and toxicities." Arabian Journal of Chemistry (2017).
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26503144
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092849311732163X
  4. Cartaxo, Ana Luísa Pécurto. "Nanoparticles types and properties–understanding these promising devices in the biomedical area."

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