The driving forces for the recent development of nanoscale features in conventional ceramic materials for both mechanical and functional reasons are discussed, and the causes of some of the resulting property enhancements are identified. Examples from the technical literature are examined, and the potential for future applications is assessed in terms of the tradeoff between enhanced properties and the added costs and difficulties of processing ultrafine powders. © Crown copyright 2001. Reproduced with the permission of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.