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By definition, structural materials are used for mechanical strength at room and elevated temperatures, to withstand cyclical loading and for wear and fracture resistance. Structural nanomaterials (with grain sizes less than 100 nm) are distinguished by unusually high strength, hardness, and wear resistance as well as good fatigue resistance, fracture toughness, and extensive high-temperature formability. However, commercial applications have only begun to tap the potential of high-strength parts (e.g., nearly 1 GPa in nano-Al alloys, known as GIGAS, and high-strength nano-SiC springs). More commonly, they are used as thermal barrier coatings, or in friction-resistant and wear-resistant rotating parts (e.g., sleeves or bearings).
Nanomaterials used for structural applications may have nanometer size in one dimension (1D), two dimensions (2D), or three dimensions (3D). Generally, 1D nanomaterials are wires, 2D refers to coatings and films, and 3D solids are used to make bulk parts. In this entry, bulk or 3D materials are emphasized, but some 1D and 2D nanomaterials used for their mechanical properties are also presented.