Nano Technology Standards

Standards have a much larger role in our society than just agreeing to measurements. As the British Standards Institution (BSI) explains it, put at its simplest, a standard is an agreed, repeatable way of doing something. It is a published document that contains a technical specification or other precise criteria designed to be used consistently as a rule, guideline, or definition.

Standards help to make life simpler and to increase the reliability and the effectiveness of many goods and services we use. They are intended to be aspirational – a summary of good and best practice rather than general practice. Standards are designed for voluntary use and do not impose any regulations.

However, laws and regulations may refer to certain standards and make compliance with them compulsory. For example, the physical characteristics and format of credit cards is set out in standard number BS EN ISO/IEC 7810:1996.

Adhering to this standard means that the cards can be used worldwide. The need for standardization also exists in various fields of Nanotechnology in order to support commercialization and market development, provide a basis for procurement, and support appropriate legislation / regulation. The lack of Nanotechnology standards poses several major challenges because right now there are:

  • no internationally agreed terminology / definitions for Nanotechnology
  • no internationally agreed protocols for toxicity testing of Nanoparticles
  • no standardized protocols for evaluating environmental impact of Nanoparticles
  • no standardized measurement techniques and instruments
  • no standardized calibration procedures and certified references materials

If we didn’t have standards in our everyday lives, from things like coffemakers to cell phones, CDs and cars, life would be pretty complicated and much more expensive. Just think about the inconvenience every international traveler has experienced when it comes to the international incompatibility of plugs and sockets. Standards create comparability and any standard is a collective work.

Committees of manufacturers, users, research organizations, government departments and consumers work together to draw up standards that evolve to meet the demands of society and technology.

Standards exist at different levels and with different scopes: national standards such as ANSI in the U.S. or DIN in Germany; regional standards such as the EN standards in the European Union or the standards set by the Pan American Standards Commission; and international standards such as the IEC and ISO standards that are recognized by a large number of countries around the world.

When it comes to Nanotechnology, numerous standard setting organizations around the world are active in defining Nanotechnology standards, although no one standard has achieved dominance yet. Some examples: