The ability to predict mesoscale structure based on the various attributes of nanoparticles, particularly particle size, size distribution, aspect ratio, and chemical functionality, is necessary to understand and potentially tailor the physical response of multi-functional materials. Recently, molecular-scale modeling approaches have indicated that simple estimates of particle shape and local order in a fluid are sufficient to predict various categories of structural order for many convex polyhedral [Damasceno Science 2012; 337 (6093):453-7]. However, these discontinuous nano-scale modeling approaches implicitly assume local constitutive relationships that may introduce considerable error if interfacial interactions or non-local coupling between mechanical fields are present. Extensive experimental investigations have been attempted, but little detail on the fundamental physics of the nanoparticles is possible because of challenges in achieving reproducible properties of an ensemble of individual nanoparticles.
Nanomaterials are so finely divided that they exhibit properties that are intermediate between the macro-scale behavior we are accustomed to, and true molecular-scale behavior. They may show unique properties related to changes in electrical, optical, mechanical, and thermal phenomena (some examples to follow), or may be even more exotic, such as quantum confinement, where the size of a particle is so small that we are altering the configuration and interactions of its atoms and electrons.