Standardizing nanotechnologies, the heavyweight small science


15 November 2007

BSI British Standards is soon to launch a series of standards and guides to underpin the rapidly expanding fields of nanotechnologies and nanosciences. 

The worldwide market for nanotechnology-enabled products is expected to exceed $1 trillion a year by 2015, and nanotechnologies are already used in medicine, ‘green technology’, and in over 500 consumer products as varied as laptops, sunscreen, tennis rackets and socks.  To support the rapid progress of this broad enabling technology it is important that standards are implemented at an early stage in order to facilitate precision in knowledge transfer, public awareness and consumer confidence. 

In January 2008 BSI British Standards will launch six standards dealing with nanotechnologies terminology and three guides which, together with the existing “PAS 71 – Vocabulary for nanoparticles”, will support:

• Safety testing, legislation and regulation
• Worker, public and environmental safety
• Commercialisation and procurement
• Patenting and Intellectual property rights
• Communication about the benefits, opportunities and potential problems associated with nanotechnologies

PAS 130, one of the nine new publications, specifically addresses the labelling of products containing manufactured nanoparticles.  This voluntary guide will help to ensure that all kinds of users, from professionals to consumers, are aware of the nanoparticle content of products they are purchasing, selecting or handling.  This will serve to reduce confusion among the public and consumers faced with a new technology.  Two other publications, PD 6699-1 and PD 6699-2, will offer good practice guidance to ‘specifying nanomaterials’ and to ‘safe handling and disposal of engineered nanoparticles’.   

PASs 131 – 136 are terminologies for a broad spectrum of applications.  PAS 131, Terminology for medical, health and personal care applications of nanotechnologies, deals with the terms and definitions used in describing the applications of nanotechnologies to cosmetics, sunscreens and medicinal products.

Mike Low, Director of BSI British Standards, said, “It is crucial that the UK plays a leading role in the development of nanotechnologies, which is predicted to have a huge impact on the global economy.  Standardization lies at the heart of this development and BSI is proud to be working in this important area and ensuring up-to-date information for business at large.”

Dr Peter Hatto, Chair of the UK national committee on nanotechnologies, said, “These nine new documents continue the UK’s innovative work to develop standards for this important new field, which started with the publication of PAS 71 – Vocabulary for nanoparticles.   The publications mark the beginning of an exciting work programme for 2008 and beyond.”

The nine documents have been developed by a wide range of experts from industry, academia, Government and professional organizations, brought together by BSI.  They demonstrate the UK’s support for this emerging discipline and show how standardization can be used to help ensure its successful global development and growth.  The nine documents are:

• PD 6699-1 Good practice guide to specifying nanomaterials
• PD 6699-2 Good practice guide to safe handling and disposal of engineered nanoparticles
• PAS 130 Guidance on the labelling of manufactured nanoparticles and products containing manufactured nanoparticles
• PAS 131 Terminology for medical, health and personal care applications of nanotechnology
• PAS 132 Terminology for the bio-nano interface
• PAS 133 Terminology for common nanoscale measurement terms including instrumentation
• PAS 134 Terminology for carbon nanostructures
• PAS 135 Terminology for nanofabrication
• PAS 136 Terminology for nanomaterials

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Further Information:
• The UK holds both the chair and secretariat of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committee, TC/229 "Nanotechnologies", and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) committee, CEN/TC 352 "Nanotechnologies". Notes to Editors