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The Need for Nanotechnology Regulation

Nanotechnology isn’t an industry, per se — it’s a way to deal with materials on a tiny level. For that reason, nanotechnology goes across industries and often doesn’t fit under any one regulatory body or set of rules. However, the need for regulation is real.

The lead in your pencil is a larger scale or bulk version of carbon that has different properties than carbon nanotubes and buckyballs, even though all three share the same chemical composition. Because these bulk versions of materials are not considered hazardous, many regulatory agencies have not yet put in place different regulations for the use of nano-sized versions of the same substances.

However, because nanomaterials can have significantly different properties than the bulk form of the same material, different rules regarding the safe manufacture of everyday materials and their nano counterparts may be necessary. That’s why governments are now evaluating special regulations for the use of nanomaterials.

Controlling the availability of nanotechnology could also be a challenge. In the case of molecular manufacturing and nano-sized factories (desktop-sized setups for manufacturing using nanomaterials), for example, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology has stated

“Uncontrolled availability of nanofactory technology can result from either insufficient or overzealous regulation. Inadequate regulation would make it easy to obtain and use an unrestricted nanofactory. Overzealous regulation would create a pent-up demand for nanoproducts, which if it gets strong enough, would fund espionage, cracking of restricted technology, or independent development, and eventually create a black market beyond the control of central authorities.”

The regulations governing nanomaterials will be evolving over the next several years.

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