For those of you who have been paying close attention to nanotechnology issues, be them regulatory or otherwise, you’ve noticed that there does not seem to be any one standard for nanotechnology terms, including "nanotechnology." While various organizations and agencies, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, American Bar Association, and Rice University, among others, have all provided somewhat similar definitions for "nanotechnology" and related terms, ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) recently released its Standard for nanotechnology related terms.
ASTM, International, by its own description is, "one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world-a trusted source for technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services. Known for their high technical quality and market relevancy, ASTM International standards have an important role in the information infrastructure that guides design, manufacturing and trade in the global economy." ASTM, International develops many of the standard testing methods and procedures for scientific processes, and they have now created standard definitions for nanotechnology.
Standard E 2456-06 is a collection of definitions and terminology that should help to alleviate some of the confusion inherent in many organizations using slightly different definitions for nanotechnology related terms. Because it is copyrighted material, it cannot be reproduced or linked here (the standard can be purchased at the above link). However, terms addressed by the Standard include: nano, naoparticle, nanotechnology, and nanoscale.
This release by ASTM, International is important because that organization is heavily relied upon for developing and maintaining many of the world’s scientific standards and procedures. The fact that they have now developed, what we hope to be, standardized definitions in the nanotechnology arena, helps to alleviate any confusion surrounding what is properly within the field of nanotechnology, and what is not. This, in turn, frees up those working in the field to turn their attention to the substantive issues at hand. While not binding on any organization or agency, the Standard reflects an attempt by several scientific organizations, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, NSF, International, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International to reach a consensus concerning the scope of nanotechnology.