Nanotechnology Introduction Series:
Materials Science

By: Prash Makaram, Phd

nanomaterials and the future of human evolutionThe impact of nanotechnology revolves around engineered nanomaterials.  The engineering of nanomaterials falls underneath an area known as materials science.  Materials science deals with the generation and application of knowledge relating to the composition, structure, and processing of materials to their properties and uses [1].  In this article, we will take a brief look at some of the various materials associated with nanotechnology.  Nanotechnology is the development and use of techniques to study physical phenomena and construct structures in the physical size range of 1-100 nanometers (nm), as well as the incorporation of these structures into applications [2].  Nanomaterials are normally classified by their dimensions.  The four classes that are mentioned here are zero dimensional nanomaterials, one dimensional nanomaterial, two dimensional nanomaterials, and three dimensional nanomaterials [2].

Let us begin with zero dimensional nanomaterials.  Examples of nanomaterials in this classification are fullerene, onion-like carbon, carbon-encapsulated metal nanoparticles, and nanodiamond.  As an example, fullerenes are spherical, caged molecules with carbon atoms located at the corner of a polyhedral structure made of pentagons and hexagons. Some of the applications of fullerenes are in the production of antibiotics in medicine, and in the area of electronics because of their superconductivity [3].  Superconductivity will allow electronic devices to conduct operations much faster than they are conducted today.

Second, there are the one dimensional nanomaterials.  Examples of one dimensional nanomaterial are carbon nanofibers and carbon nanotubes.  Carbon nanotubes are rolled up into tubular structures by bonded graphite sheets with nanometer diameter and large length ration.  Carbon nanotubes have found application opportunities in electronics, optics, materials science, and architecture [3]. In addition, carbon nanotubes are being experimented with for use in the biomedical field; however, in this case they are being constructed as part of three dimensional materials.

Now, we discuss two dimensional nanomaterials.  Examples of two dimensional nanomaterials are graphene and carbon nanowall.  Graphene is a one atom thick planar sheet of bonded carbon atoms that are arranged in a two-dimensional hexagonal honeycomb crystal lattice.  Some of the applications of graphene are in areas where transistors are used.  In addition, there is promise for graphene in mechanical fields, aerospace, automotive energy storage, solar, oil service, lubricant, electrical conducting and transparent films fields [3, 4].  Graphene is the most widely studied two dimensional nanomaterials [4].  As with most areas of nanotechnology, research, development, and application where it is occurring are in the very early stages.  There is still much to be learned, tested, and applied.

Finally, there are three dimensional nanomaterials.  Examples of three dimensional nanomaterials are being researched and developed in the semiconductor area and in the biomedical field.  In the semiconductor area, 3D semiconductor nanostructures have been produced that possess interesting visible and infrared optical properties.  This is an indicator that 3D semiconductor devices may have significant uses in the world of optical applications [5].  In the biomedical field researchers are working on three dimensional DNA nanostructures that self-assemble.  3D-DNA that self assembles is expected to be used in order to release drugs in targeted areas of the body, encapsulate molecules of material such as, proteins, antibodies, drugs, or other nanoparticles.  This would likely be possible with 3D-DNA structures that make use of nanotubes [6].


[1] Materials science and engineering, (n.d.) McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering, (2002), Retrieved March 24 2013 from

[2] R.N. Kostoff, R.G. Koytcheff, C.G.Y. Lau, Global nanotechnology research literature overview, Technological forecasting & Social Change, 2007, Volume 74, 1733-1747.

[3] A. Mostofizadeh, Y. Li, B. Song, Y. Huang, Synthesis, properties, and applications of lows-dimensional carbon-related nanomaterials, Journal of Nanomaterials, 2011, Volume 2011, 1-21.

[4] T. Ricci, 2-D nanomaterials revolutionizing device design, ASME, December 2012, Retrieved from—articles/articles/nanotechnology/2-d-nanomaterials-revolutionizing-device-design, March 23, 2013.

[5] S.V. Alyshev, A.O. Zabezhaylov, R.A. Mironov, V.I. Koslovsky, E. M. Dianov, Formation of three-dimensional ZnSe-based semiconductor nanostructures, Semiconductors, 2010, Volume 44, Number 1, 72-75.

[6] P.K. Lo, K.L. Metera, H.F. Sleiman, Self-assembly of three-dimensional DNA nanostructures and potential biological applications, Science Direct, 2010, Volume 14, 597-607.

Category: Nanotechnology