Nanotechnology Defined

Date: Aug 06, 2010

Keller and Heckman LLP has been actively involved in the expanding nanotechnology field and assists clients with the introduction of nanotechnology-based product applications in the food, food-packaging, industrial chemical manufacture and processing, fabrication, and pesticide industries. In addition to the legal services we provide for these emerging technologies, Keller and Heckman thinks it is important to offer expertise to international, commercial standards activities that are developing the common vocabulary and nomenclature that are underpinning the advancement of nanomaterials.

Since 2005, Keller and Heckman has served as a member of the ANSI-Accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 229 Nanotechnologies. The U.S. TAG is administered by the official US representative to ISO, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Currently, a member of the firm's Chemical Control practice group, serves as the firm's representative on the U.S. TAG. In this capacity, Keller and Heckman serves as a U.S. delegate for the ISO/TC 229 Plenary meetings as chair of the U.S. TAG's Working Group 1, Terminology and Nomenclature expert group.

Recently, ISO/TC 229 achieved the first international consensus definitions for core terms like nanotechnology and nanomaterial, as well as engineered nanomaterial and manufactured nanomaterial. ISO has established designated series number 80004 to facilitate the distribution and usage of consensus terms. The definitions below are among those on their way toward publication as ISO-TS 80004-1.


The application of scientific knowledge to manipulate and control matter in the nanoscale to make use of size- and structure-dependent properties and phenomena distinct from those associated with individual atoms or molecules or with bulk materials.


Materials with any external dimension in the nanoscale or having internal structure or surface structure in the nanoscale.

Through participation in the development and the dissemination of these vocabulary of terms, Keller and Heckman encourages U.S. and international awareness and utilization of these ISO nanotechnology definitions and standards.

We note in advance that the above consensus definition of nanomaterial has the potential to invite criticism as being overbroad, in that many materials have structures in the nanoscale, but are not specifically engineered using nanotechnology. It is anticipated, however, that materials appropriately defined as nanomaterials will not only have dimensions or contain structural regions in the nanoscale—the preferred usage is intended for materials that exhibit intrinsic properties or functionalities due to these features that are distinct from those associated with individual atoms, molecules, or bulk materials. Further, the definition is not intended to be used for articles like tires or automobiles or tables that may be fabricated to contain nanomaterials.

Globally accepted standards enable interoperability among products and are critical to efficient transactions in the marketplace and US business growth. Nanotechnology standards inform regulatory efforts and identify gaps in knowledge. Furthermore, these standards allow experts to determine the relative toxicity and hazard potential of nanomaterials in order to create screening methods, promote product safety, and control occupational exposures. Nanotechnology standards are already informing the development of environmental, health, and safety guidelines as well as the first international guidance on the labeling of manufactured nano-objects and products containing manufactured nano-objects.

Over the next several years, the vocabulary and nomenclature of nanotechnology will continue to expand. There are international opportunities for involvement and groups of materials where standards will be developed. Businesses, nanomaterial manufacturers, distributers and importers, nanotechnology policy-makers, academics, and consumers of nanotechnology have the opportunity to impact the development of this emerging field by engaging in the international nanotechnology standard-setting process. For more information on the ANSI TAG and how to participate, contact Heather Benko at ANSI: hbenko@ansi.org.

Keller and Heckman is actively engaged in the field of nanotechnology. For more information on the rules and standards relating to the manufacture, processing and use of nanomaterials in US and international commerce, please contact one of the attorneys listed on this web page.

* © ISO. This material is reproduced from the TC229 JWG 1 Terminology and Nomenclature Convener Report with permission of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on behalf of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). No part of this material may be copied or reproduced in any form, electronic retrieval system or otherwise made available on the Internet, a public network, by satellite or otherwise without the prior written consent of ANSI. Copies of this standard may be purchased from ANSI, 25 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036, (212) 642-4900, http://webstore.ansi.org/.