Fabrication and arrangement of nanoparticles into one-dimensional linear chains is achieved by successive chemical reactions, each reaction adding one or more nanoparticles by building onto exposed, unprotected linker functionalities. Optionally, protecting groups may be used to control and organize growth. Nanoparticle spheres are functionalized in a controlled manner in order to enable covalent linkages. Functionalization of nanoparticles is accomplished by either ligand exchange or chemical modification of the terminal functional groups of the capping ligand. Nanoparticle chains are obtained by a variety of connectivity modes such as direct coupling, use of linker molecules, and use of linear polymeric templates. In particular, a versatile building block system is obtained through controlled monofunctionalization of nanoparticles.