nan·o·tech·nol·o·gy [nan-uh-tek-nol-uh-jee, ney-nuh-]
any technology on the scale of nanometers
(care of dictionary.com)
So it can be cliche to start with the definition straight from the dictionary, but the definition clearly points out the problem with the understanding of nanotechnology...there is very little. Trying to define nanotechnology broadly is like trying to lump all items in a grocery store that are in a jar into the same aisle. Just because pickles, peanut butter, and garlic all come in a jar doesn't mean you need to lump them in the "jar aisle". I'm not sure my stomach can handle that shopping experience.
In a response to this kind of understanding, this week the International Organization for Standardization (ISO, you know like ISO 9000?) released a new technical report to help define and categorize nanotechnology. Instead of treating the technology as one big lump of the same material and "organizing by jars, or jarring it", it is acknowledging that all nano isn't created equal. In the report, titled ISO/TR 11360:2010, Nanotechnologies – Methodology for the Classification and Categorization of Nanomaterials
, it treats the constituents of nanotechnology as part of a family tree. So your garlic may come in a jar all chopped up, but it is classified with the veggies and onions because it is more closely related. In much the same way, carbon nanomaterials and gold nanoparticles are nano and "in a jar," but carbon nanomaterials are a separate class of material that can now be classified on a separate tree or "aisle."
So what do you think? Is this a good way to classify nanotechnology? Are you glad that ISO is getting involved in the conversation?