Polymer nanocomposites (nanoparticles dispersed in a polymer matrix) have been the subject of intense research for almost two decades in both academic and industrial settings. This interest has been fueled by the ability of nanocomposites to not only improve the performance of polymers, but also by their ability to introduce new properties. Yet, there are still challenges that polymer nanocomposites must overcome to reach their full potential. In this Research News article we discuss a new class of hybrids termed nanoparticle ionic materials (NIMS). NIMS are organic-inorganic hybrid materials comprising a nanoparticle core functionalized with a covalently tethered ionic corona. They are facilely engineered to display flow properties that span the range from glassy solids to free flowing liquids. These new systems have unique properties that can overcome some of the challenges facing nanocomosite materials. © 2008 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA.