A revolution in novel nanoparticles and colloidal building blocks has been enabled by recent breakthroughs in particle synthesis. These new particles are poised to become the `atoms' and `molecules' of tomorrow's materials if they can be successfully assembled into useful structures. Here, we discuss the recent progress made in the synthesis of nanocrystals and colloidal particles and draw analogies between these new particulate building blocks and better-studied molecules and supramolecular objects. We argue for a conceptual framework for these new building blocks based on anisotropy attributes and discuss the prognosis for future progress in exploiting anisotropy for materials design and assembly.
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