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 July 2005 From the Editor's Desk
E-mail Maryann Gorman

Big Standards for Tiny Things

What I know about nanotechnology could fit on the head of a pin. And most of what I know about it is that several nanostructures could fit there comfortably alongside.

Fortunately for my readers, the authors of this issue’s feature articles, who are just a few of the hundreds of members of new ASTM International Committee E56 on Nanotechnology, know a lot more about the subject. Most significantly for our purposes, they know that without standardization, it will be all the more difficult to develop, gain regulatory approval for, and assure the public about nanostructures.

The first goal of the committee is to give all industry sectors a way to speak the same language — a key development for a new technology. Toward this end, Committee E56 has taken advantage of ASTM’s standards development tools and new partnerships to ensure that the resulting full-consensus terminology document is made available to the greatest number of industry members as rapidly as possible.

Committee members have called extra face-to-face meetings and used ASTM’s electronic balloting system to expedite the creation and approval of definitions. And, in an unprecedented action, ASTM International has created partnerships with six organizations whose constituencies are stakeholders in nanotechnology: the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, NSF International, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineering. Having signed agreements with ASTM, all six will be able to participate in the development of the terminology standard and access it at no charge; their logos will be affixed to the approved document in recognition of their partnership. (See the feature section introduction.)

The result will be a standard published shortly after an anticipated mid-July approval date. As are all ASTM standards, the E56 terminology will be a living document, with definitions added as they are approved in an ongoing balloting process.

So while I don’t know a lot about nanotechnology, I do know that Committee E56 is well-positioned to help the many industry sectors that are launching nanotechnology initiatives. For the details, I will leave it up to this month’s feature authors. Check in with them in this month's feature section.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief

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