Nanomaterials for Decarbonization

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Nanomaterials are materials with at least one dimension in the nanoscale (1-100 nanometers). At this scale, materials exhibit unique and often enhanced properties compared to their bulk counterparts, making them valuable for various applications in electronics, energy, medicine, and other fields.

Impact on climate action

Nanomaterials for Decarbonization within Advanced Materials catalyze climate action by enhancing energy efficiency and enabling sustainable technologies. By enabling lightweight, high-performance materials for renewable energy generation and storage, these innovations reduce carbon emissions, promote clean energy adoption, and drive the transition to a low-carbon economy.


  • Nanoscale Properties: The unique properties of nanomaterials arise from their small size and high surface area-to-volume ratio. This leads to changes in their physical, chemical, and optical properties compared to bulk materials.
  • Quantum Effects: At the nanoscale, quantum mechanical effects can influence the behavior of materials, leading to novel properties and functionalities.
  • Nanomaterial Synthesis: Various techniques are used to synthesize nanomaterials, including chemical vapor deposition (CVD), sol-gel processing, and self-assembly.
  • Characterization Techniques: Advanced characterization techniques, such as electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction, are used to study the structure and properties of nanomaterials.

TRL : 4-8 (depending on the specific material and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs): CNTs are cylindrical structures made of carbon atoms with exceptional strength, electrical conductivity, and thermal conductivity. They are being explored for use in composites, electronics, and energy storage applications.
  • Graphene: Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. It is known for its exceptional strength, electrical conductivity, and flexibility, making it suitable for various applications in electronics, energy storage, and composites.
  • Quantum Dots: Quantum dots are semiconductor nanoparticles with unique optical and electronic properties. They are used in displays, solar cells, and other optoelectronic devices.
  • Metal Nanoparticles: Metal nanoparticles, such as silver and gold nanoparticles, have antimicrobial properties and are being used in medical devices, coatings, and other applications.
  • Nanostructured Materials: Nanostructured materials, such as nanocomposites and nanoporous materials, offer enhanced properties compared to their bulk counterparts, such as increased strength, improved catalytic activity, and better gas separation capabilities.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Enhanced Mechanical Properties
  • Biomedical Applications
  • Energy Storage Solutions
  • Nanomaterials in Electronics
  • Sustainable Nanomaterials
  • Advanced Nanocomposites
  • Nanoscale Catalysis
  • Nanophotonics
  • Nanomaterials for Wearable Technology
  • Nanomaterials in Aerospace
  • Nanomaterials in 3D Printing
  • Nanomaterials for Flexible Electronics
  • Nanomaterials for Energy Conversion

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • XG Sciences:
    • Technology Enhancement: XG Sciences focuses on the production of graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) and related graphene-based materials using a scalable exfoliation process.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: XG Sciences’ graphene nanoplatelets offer exceptional mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties, making them suitable for a wide range of applications including automotive components, aerospace structures, energy storage devices, and electronics.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: XG Sciences serves industries seeking lightweight, strong, and conductive materials, including automotive, aerospace, energy storage, electronics, and consumer goods.
  • Nanoco Technologies:
    • Technology Enhancement: Nanoco Technologies specializes in the synthesis and manufacture of quantum dots (QDs), semiconductor nanocrystals with unique optical and electronic properties.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Nanoco’s quantum dots exhibit size-dependent emission properties, enabling applications such as high-quality displays, lighting, solar cells, and biomedical imaging.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Nanoco Technologies serves industries requiring advanced materials for displays, lighting, renewable energy, and healthcare, including consumer electronics manufacturers, lighting companies, and medical device manufacturers.
  • Nanosys:
    • Technology Enhancement: Nanosys develops and manufactures quantum dots (QDs) and other nanomaterials for applications in displays, lighting, and life sciences.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Nanosys’ quantum dot technology enables vivid and energy-efficient displays with a wide color gamut and high brightness. Their nanomaterials also find applications in lighting and biomedical imaging.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Nanosys serves industries such as consumer electronics, lighting, and healthcare, providing advanced materials for displays, lighting systems, and diagnostic imaging devices.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a global leader in nanomaterials research, focusing on the synthesis, characterization, and application of nanoscale materials across various disciplines.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves the development of novel nanomaterials, such as quantum dots, nanowires, and graphene, with unique properties and functionalities tailored for specific applications.
    • End-use Applications: MIT’s work spans fields like electronics, biomedicine, energy, and environmental remediation. For example, they’re researching nanomaterial-based sensors for detecting pollutants in water, nanocomposites for lightweight and strong materials, and nanoelectronics for next-generation computing and communication devices.
  • Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford’s research on nanomaterials explores fundamental science and engineering principles to develop innovative nanomaterials and nanotechnology-enabled devices.
    • Uniqueness: They are known for their work on bottom-up synthesis approaches for creating complex nanomaterial structures, as well as their efforts in translating nanomaterial research into practical applications.
    • End-use Applications: Stanford’s research finds applications in biotechnology, nanoelectronics, photonics, and sustainable energy. For instance, they’re investigating nanomaterial-based drug delivery systems for targeted cancer therapy, nanophotonic devices for efficient solar energy conversion, and nanoelectronic sensors for real-time monitoring of environmental pollutants.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley’s research on nanomaterials spans interdisciplinary areas like materials science, chemistry, physics, and bioengineering, with a focus on understanding nanoscale phenomena and leveraging them for technological advancements.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often involves the development of multifunctional nanomaterials, such as nanoporous materials, nanocomposites, and nanocrystals, with applications ranging from medicine to environmental science.
    • End-use Applications: UC Berkeley’s work has applications in areas like biomedicine, nanoelectronics, environmental monitoring, and consumer products. For example, they’re researching nanomaterial-based biosensors for early disease detection, nanoelectronic devices for high-performance computing, and nanocomposite materials for lightweight and durable structural components.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Nanomaterials are already being used in various commercial applications, including:

  • Electronics: Nanomaterials are used in transistors, sensors, and other electronic devices due to their unique electrical and optical properties.
  • Composites: Nanomaterials are incorporated into composites to improve their strength, stiffness, and other mechanical properties.
  • Energy Storage: Nanomaterials are being used in batteries and supercapacitors to enhance energy density and charging speed.
  • Medical Devices: Nanomaterials are used in medical devices, such as implants and drug delivery systems, due to their biocompatibility and unique properties.