Consider the four below-listed definitions of nanotechnology. Each contains a “novel properties” component. That is, in addition to defining nano by its scale, they suggest the very essence of “nano-ness” is the way nanomaterials exhibit unique/novel properties when compared to their parent materials. While the “novel properties” concept rests at the center of the world-wide interest in nanotechnology, it also presents materials characterization and regulatory problems. What exactly are these “novel properties,” how are they defined, are they consistent from one type of nanomaterial to the next, do they vary in intensity under certain circumstances, are they measurable and capable of standardization? If not, how are we going to handle this aspect of the definition when it comes to materials characterization projects and/or regulations? Scientists – not lawyers – will have to answer these questions, of course. Yet this basic issue will have to be addressed in any well-thought-out nanotechnology EHS regulation/legislation. Without further work and definition, the concept may only create vagueness, subjectivity, and loopholes if included at the level of current understanding.

1. National Nanotechnology Initiative: “Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at this length scale.”

2. Arkansas: “‘Nanotechnology’ means the materials and systems whose structures and components exhibit novel and significantly improved physical, chemical, and biological properties, phenomena, and processes due to their nanoscale size.” A.C.A. §15-4-2103(5)

3. Oklahoma: “‘Nanotechnology’ means technology development at the molecular range (1 nm to 100 nm) to create and use structures, and systems, that have novel properties because of their small size.” 74 Okl St. Ann. §5060.4(12).

4. Virginia: “technology, research, and development at the atomic, molecular, or macromolecular levels, in the 1 – 100 nanometer range, to create and use structures, devices, and systems that have novel properties and to integrate such structures, devices, and systems into large material components, systems, and architectures.” House Bill No. 1939 establishing the Virginia Technology, Nanotechnology, and Biotechnology Investment Fund.

Finally, the only voluntary nanotechnology standard issued in the United States thus far — ASTM E2456-06 — at least recognizes this issue in its definition of nanoparticle:  "a subclassification of ultrafine particle . . . . which may or may not exhibit a size-related intensive property."  The standard goes on to recognize the difference between "transitive" and "non-transitive" nanoparticles; maintaining the former exhibit novel properties while the latter do not.