Introduction

Nanostructured materials containing metal or semiconductor nanoparticles present an exciting area of nanoscience and nanotechnology as particle incorporation allows imparting unique properties to polymeric materials: catalytic, optical, magnetic, etc. If the polymeric matrix is already nanostructured before nanoparticle formation (i.e., contains domains of different chemical nature divided by interfaces), this reflects a further degree of nanostructural organization. Normally, the presence of such nanostructures in polymer systems (presence of interfaces) allows one to carry out a subtle control over nanoparticle growth, particle size distribution, and particle surface interactions. The above characteristics are most important in determining properties of these nanomaterials and their possible applications. Narrow particle size distribution is crucial in developing well-defined materials for any application, as optical, magnetic, and even catalytic properties strongly depend on the precise control over a particle size. This particular field of science began developing about 10 years ago when papers dealing with nanoparticle formation in microsegregated block copolymers and block copolymer micelles were first published. Nowadays this field is characterized by an avalanche of publications and fast progress in discovery of new materials. Varying the polymer systems and different approaches in nanoparticle formation, nanoparticles of various size and shape, nanotubes, nanofibers, and other nanoinclusions can be obtained in polymer nanoenvironment.

The structure of this review article is the following. All methods of nanoparticle formation in nanostructured polymers will be combined into three groups depending on the medium: nanoparticle formation (i) in solid nanostructured polymer materials, (ii) in pores or cavities of nanometer size located in polymers (this makes polymers nanostructured), (iii) and in solutions of nanostructured polymers. Each type of polymeric nanoenvironment is characterized by particular features which will be thoroughly discussed. Characterization methods most commonly used for studying nanostruc-tured polymers containing nanoparticles will be described. At the end, the properties of nanostructured polymeric systems with nanoparticles will be briefly described.

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