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The rapid development in the chemistry of nanoparticles over the past 20 years has driven tremendous advances in the field. While there remains significant interest in the use of nanoparticles as fillers in polymer materials to enhance physical and mechanical properties, many are now engaging in research efforts that focus on precise structures of nanoparticles in polymers, including their assembly in arrays and along interfacial boundaries. The combination of precise organic chemistry on nanoparticle materials has led to developments in the growth of polymers from nanoparticle surfaces, allowing one to tailor the properties of the particles by the choice of polymer and its inherent functionality. Such nanoparticle–polymer composite materials are generating interest in several applications, including electronic and optical materials, based on the properties of metallic and semiconductor particles used. In addition, efforts in catalysis are under way using nanoparticles in polymer scaffolds. These and other topics form the basis of this review article, which will start in the next section with a brief account of early studies in the field, and progress from clay-based composites to metallic- and semiconductor-based nanoparticle–polymer composites.