Next-Generation Multifunctional Carbon–Metal Nanohybrids for Energy and Environmental Applications

Nanotechnology has unprecedentedly revolutionized human societies over the past decades and will continue to advance our broad societal goals in the coming decades. The research, development, and particularly the application of engineered nanomaterials have shifted the focus from “less efficient” single-component nanomaterials toward “superior-performance”, next-generation multifunctional nanohybrids. Carbon nanomaterials (e.g., carbon nanotubes, graphene family nanomaterials, carbon dots, and graphitic carbon nitride) and metal/metal oxide nanoparticles (e.g., Ag, Au, CdS, Cu2O, MoS2, TiO2, and ZnO) combinations are the most commonly pursued nanohybrids (carbon–metal nanohybrids; CMNHs), which exhibit appealing properties and promising multifunctionalities for addressing multiple complex challenges faced by humanity at the critical energy–water–environment (EWE) nexus. In this frontier review, we first highlight the altered and newly emerging properties (e.g., electronic and optical attributes, particle size, shape, morphology, crystallinity, dimensionality, carbon/metal ratio, and hybridization mode) of CMNHs that are distinct from those of their parent component materials. We then illustrate how these important newly emerging properties and functions of CMNHs direct their performances at the EWE nexus including energy harvesting (e.g., H2O splitting and CO2 conversion), water treatment (e.g., contaminant removal and membrane technology), and environmental sensing and in situ nanoremediation. This review concludes with identifications of critical knowledge gaps and future research directions for maximizing the benefits of next-generation multifunctional CMNHs at the EWE nexus and beyond.