New Committee to Develop International Standards for Nanotechnology

22 April 2005

ASTM International is to form a new committee to develop international consensus standards, definitions, terminology, and procedures covering nanotechnology.

ASTM International, one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world, is looking to embrace the recent developments in nanotechnology by providing a series of guidelines that will cover all potential applications, covering all manufactured products, as well as medical, industrial, and scientific procedures.

With nanotechnology research, commercialization and unfortunately, misinformation and hype growing exponentially, researchers, manufacturers, regulators, and academicians need agreed-upon standards for terminology, material properties, and measurement procedures. The absence of such standards impedes scientific communication, technical advancement, new business opportunities, and the public's acceptance of new or better products.

A meeting held earlier this year at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), involved key representatives from the many stakeholders affected by nanotechnology, including the government, academic, legal, and industrial sectors, all of whom unanimously agreed to hold an organizational meeting for the development of this new standardization activity within ASTM International. Various disciplines, including consumers, manufacturers, suppliers, trade and professional societies, and federal agencies were invited to participate.

The culmination of that meeting was a unanimous motion that ASTM International establish a new main committee on nanotechnology chaired by Dr. Vicki Colvin of Rice University's Center for Environmental and Biological Nanotechnology (CBEN). Committee E56 on Nanotechnology is charged with the development of standards and guidance for nanotechnology, nanocomposites and nanomaterials. The structure of the committee consists of technical subcommittees in the following areas:

Terminology & Nomenclature,
Environmental & Occupational Health & Safety,
International Law & Intellectual Property,
Liaison & International Cooperation, and
Standards of Care/Product Stewardship.

According to Akira Ono of Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and E56 Vice Chairman, ""Nanotechnology is a scientific approach with a potential application as vast as the nano world is miniscule. ASTM International Committee E56 on Nanotechnology provides a forum for all existing technical disciplines to collaborate on a global scale."" Twelve countries are represented on the E56 membership roster.

An early priority for Committee E56 is the development of a globally relevant, industry-driven terminology standard for nanotechnology. In an effort to facilitate this objective, ASTM has signed partnership agreements with the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and NSF International. These agreements focus solely on the issue of terminology, and will eliminate redundant resource allocation among a variety of standards organizations, provide for the pooling of technical experts in a single standards development venue and, consequently, help create a truly global terminology document in terms of input as well as application.

As this method of manufacturing will impact almost every conceivable product that exists today, it is critical that representatives from as many business sectors as possible give their input to E56. It is important that they play a part in developments that will radically impact the economics of, and create new financial opportunities for, every sector of our economy. Conversely, failure to communicate with all stakeholders, including the end consumer, risks distortion, fear, and possible rejection of the many new products that can emerge from nanotechnology. E56 represents the chance to be on the frontier of what may be the most daring and monumental technological and economic development of the 21st century.

There will be a series of meetings and workshops being held this year where interested individuals are encouraged to attend the next meeting of Committee E56, which will take place May 16-18, 2005, in Reno, Nev., at the Hilton Reno Resort.

For more information on the E56 meetings, the workshop, or for information on Committee E56, contact Pat A. Picariello, director of developmental operations or visit:

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