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Interim Director of U.S. National Nanotechnology Coordination Office Testifies before Congress

Lloyd Whitman, Ph.D., the interim director of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)'s National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), testified on May 20, 2014, before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Subcommittee on Research and Technology. Dr. Whitman, who was appointed interim director in January 2014, also serves as the deputy director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)'s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST).

His remarks were delivered as part of the subcommittee's hearing in Washington, DC, titled "Nanotechnology: From Laboratories to Commercial Products." During the hearing, the subcommittee also heard testimony from representatives of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Nano- and Molecular Science and Technology, and nanotechnology company F Cubed LLC.

During his testimony, Dr. Whitman discussed the NNI's ongoing efforts to advance nanotechnology in the United States, including its support of effective collaboration between government agencies in connection with nanotechnology and nanomaterials. He also highlighted the NNI's development and regular updating of its NNI Strategic Plan, which sets down common goals and objectives for government bodies carrying out nanotechnology work.

Nanotechnology is the application of scientific knowledge to manipulate and control matter in the nanoscale (approximately 1 nanometer [nm] to 100 nm) in order to make use of size- and structure-dependent properties and phenomena, as distinct from those associated with individual atoms or molecules or with bulk materials.

Nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing - which refers to the intentional synthesis, generation or control of nanomaterials, or fabrication steps in the nanoscale for commercial purpose - hold the potential to trigger significant economic benefits while also impacting on a wide variety of fields and industries.

Dr. Whitman noted the major role that U.S. government agencies and bodies have played in supporting the development of voluntary consensus standards related to nanomaterials and nanotechnology, and pointed to the work carried out by experts employed by federal agencies in the development of international standards on these topics. The establishment of standards for nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing processes is expected to encourage the development of this technology in a scientific and responsible manner.

A number of important standards in this area have been developed by both the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), with the support of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO Technical Committee (TC) 229, Nanotechnologies, and the U.S. National Committee (USNC)-approved U.S. TAG to IEC TC 113, Nanotechnology standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems. ANSI administers the U.S. TAG to ISO TC 229, while the U.S. TAG to IEC TC 113 is administered by ANSI member the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). The U.S. has been very involved in this space and led the development of ISO/TS 80004-8:2013, Nanotechnologies -- Vocabulary -- Part 8: Nanomanufacturing, a notable recent Technical Specification.

Several ANSI member organizations also have been active in creating new documents to address nanotechnology standards needs, including IEEE and ASTM International, which recently developed ASTM E2909-13, Standard Guide for Investigation/Study/Assay Tab-Delimited Format for Nanotechnologies (ISA-TAB-Nano): Standard File Format for the Submission and Exchange of Data on Nanomaterials and Characterizations.

The ANSI Nanotechnology Standards Panel (ANSI-NSP) serves as the U.S.'s cross-sector coordinating body for the facilitation of standards development in the area of nanotechnology. Formed in 2004, the panel works to provide a forum for standards developing organizations (SDOs), government entities, academia, and industry to identify needs and establish recommendations for the creation or updating of standards related to nanotechnology and nanomaterials. In addition, the ANSI-NSP solicits participation from nanotechnology-related groups that have not traditionally been involved in the voluntary consensus standards system, while also promoting cross-sector collaborative efforts.

To learn more about ANSI-NSP and its work, or to get involved, visit its official webpage or contact Heather Benko ([email protected]; 212-642-4912), ANSI senior manager, nanotechnology standardization activities.

A full transcript of Dr. Whitman's remarks are available online. For more information about the hearing, visit its official webpage.


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