THE British Standards Institute (BSI) hosted the inaugural meeting of a technical committee for nanotechnologies last week, intended to ensure that the UK plays a prominent role in the technology’s standards creation.
Nanotechnology involves engineering matter at the atomic and molecular scale, about 10,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. It holds tremendous promise for the future development of microprocessors and other hardware.
By giving nanotechnologists a uniform language and process, standardisation will encourage safer and faster product development and interoperable products, according to experts.
‘Nanotechnology affects virtually all ind-ustries in the UK, including cars, IT, manufacturing and healthcare,’ said Professor Mark Welland of The Royal Society.
‘The world at the nanoscale is complex; even defining what is nano is hard. It requires standards in nomenclature, characterisation, processes and toxicity.’
An international committee has already been established by the BSI to develop standards, as well as a web site to provide a point of reference for the sector.
The industry is still growing: the European Union provided $3bn (£1.7bn) in funding for nano-related projects in 2004, nearly a third of the $10bn (£5.7bn) spent globally by private and public sector organisations.
‘The global nanotechnology market is expected to reach $29bn (£16.7bn) by 2008,’ said BSI director Mike Low.
‘The technology is predicted to revolutionise our lives for the next 100 years. It is crucially important that the UK plays a leading role in the development of nanotechnology, which is predicted to have a huge impact on the global economy.’
Speaking at the event, science and innovation minister Lord Sainsbury said that the UK’s current annual turnover for all micro and nanotechnologies is £11bn, and that it supports some 20,000 jobs.