What Are the Different Types of Nanomaterials?

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  • Written By: Liz Thomas
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Nanomaterials are made of many different chemicals and compounds. Once formed, these materials are extremely small which give the nano product unique properties. There are four main classes of materials that are used to make nano sized products including metal, carbon, composites, and dendrimers. These products have a variety of applications and are used in the automotive industry, biomedical industry, in films, and much more.

Nano scale material is unique because of its size, ranging from one nanometer to several hundreds of nanometers. Electrical, optical, and chemical properties are very different at nano scale than at a larger scale. One reason that properties are so different are that more than half of the materials atoms are on the surface. Large scale items have much less percentage of atoms at the surface.

Metal based nanomaterials are those such as nanogold, quantum dots and nanosilver. Quantum dots come in several sizes with a maximum size of several hundred nanometers. The dot contains semiconductor crystals that are packed together so thousands of atoms are all in a very small area. Other metal based chemicals used at this small scale include types of metal oxides.

Carbon based nanomaterials are those that are mostly made of carbon. The carbon is shaped into hollow tubes, ellipsoids or spheres. Ellipsoidal and spherical carbon nanomaterials are called fullerenes. Hollow tube shaped materials are called nanotubes.


Some of the applications of carbon based products include making film stronger and lighter. They will also improve the quality and life of different coatings used on mechanical parts. These materials are also commonly used for electronic applications.

Composites are a third class of materials made of other nanomaterials that are combined with large bulky materials or other nanoparticles. These composites are used for flame retardant properties, enhancing mechanical performance and acting as a barrier for packaging. A small amount of composites, as little as two percent, can increase the strength of items by as much as 100 percent. Creating composites can be quite simple, using ion exchange technology and heating. Reactions using polymerization are another way to create composites quickly.

A dendrimer is another type of nanomaterial. These are polymers that contain many branches. They typically look like chains, and will have numerous chain ends that can be made to have specific functions normally used for chemical reactions. Some dendrimers can be three dimensional and have an interior cavity into which other molecules can fit. Drug delivery is one use of this internal cavity found in dendrimers. These also have applications in gene therapy and medical diagnosis.


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Who deals with nanotoxicology?

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