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Nanotechnology Standards and Guidelines

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Global nanotechnology research, and applications leading to product commercialization, are experiencing explosive growth. Corporations, and even nations, are embracing nanotechnology research as an avenue for technology leadership, jobs creation and the means to solve challenges to society (environmental impact, energy, healthcare, infrastructure development). In fact, the U.S. has focused nanotechnology research under the massive National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). While global investment in nanotechnology continues on a large scale, real and somewhat mundane nanotechnology-based products have already hit the market. Examples include carbon-black in tires and aircraft, titanium oxides in cosmetics, and silver nanoparticles in refrigerators and food packaging.

Nanotechnology is both promising and worrisome at the same time. The health, safety and environmental implications of nanomaterials are as yet unknown. There have been some indications that nanomaterials might be harmful to humans and the environment, but much more science needs to be performed to have a clear understanding.

As science and technology advance, observation and manipulation techniques on the nanometer level have become possible. Indeed, this advance of science has been a requirement to sustain the development of nanotechnology. This development has taken place across many sectors, various research institutes, universities and company laboratories using the terminologies, research approaches, and evaluation methods of their own technology sectors.

To unify the scientific community, a common set of terminology is required. Standards bodies have been working on the language surrounding nanotechnology development. Additionally, standards bodies have the responsibility to resolve the public's worry about the use of nanotechnology in products they use every day. Science must be applied to Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) concerns, and proper evaluation of the toxicological and eco-toxicological effects of nanotechnology must be made for all commonly-used nanomaterials.

The major standards bodies involved in nanotechnology standards development are (with a link to their nanotechnology website):

The major Technical Committee of ISO is TC229. This standards organization is primarily focused on the terminology and nomenclature (JWG1-Joint Working Group 1); measurement and characterization (JWG2-Joint Working Group 2); Health, Safety, and Environmental impacts of nanotechnologies (Working Group 3); and material specifications (Working Group 4). The ISO has stated that they are developing standards for the following purposes: 1. understanding and control of matter and processes at the nanoscale, typically, but not exclusively, below 100 nanometers in one or more dimensions where the onset of size-dependent phenomena usually enables novel applications; and 2. utilizing the properties of nanoscale materials that differ from the properties of individual atoms, molecules, and bulk matter, to create improved materials, devices, and systems that exploit these new properties.

The major Technical Committee of IEC is TC113. This group is directly involved in JWG1 and JWG2 with ISO TC229. Additionally, TC113 is interested in the application of nanomaterials and nano-components in products. These nano-enabled products are the major focus of TC113. Standards are being drafted related to the characterization of Carbon NanoTubes, and the resistivity measurements of those materials. Additionally, nano-contacts are being studied with an expectation of a technical report on contacts to nanomaterials. This effort may lead to additional standards.

The IEEE has released one IEEE Standard 1650-2005: IEEE Standard Test Methods for Measurement of Electrical Properties of Carbon Nanotubes. Additionally, the IEEE standards body is developing IEEE 1690: Standard Methods for the Characterization of Carbon Nanotubes Used as Additives in Bulk Materials.

The ASTM released a standard E2456-06: Standard terminology Relating to Nanotechnology. This standard has been used by ISO TC229 in the development of additional terminology.

BSI has developed 8 standards to date, relating to terminology, to proper methods of handling nanomaterials in the manufacturing environment, and to measurement and characterization methods. The BSI efforts are being folded into the efforts of both the ISO and IEC. Likely in the end, the majority of major standards will be those published by the ISO and the IEC.

With all of the major standards body efforts presently taking place across the globe, it is fully expected that standards will be in place to aid the nanotechnology community in its research and development of materials, components, and nano-enabled products. There is plenty of additional detailed information available to the public through the links shown above.