Nanotechnology generally applies to materials or products that are 100nm or smaller in at least one dimension. Nano-sized things can be achieved either by starting from full size and working downwardly or by starting from the atomic level and building upwardly through the arrangement of atoms and molecules.
Their specialty? The size, or better their scale effects , that produces a real change of properties passing from a bigger size to a smaller one o vice versa. For example, metallic nanoparticles suspended in liquid have different colors depending on the size of the particles; whereas metal in macroscopic structures looks shiny, the same element gains color when changed into a powder of nanoparticles.
Why the use of the term “Nano”? Because one nanometer (nm) is the equivalent of 10-9 meters (one billionth of a meter, for example single human hair is around 80,000 nm in width ), and so objects measured in a few hundred nanometers are invisible to the human eye.
In simple terms, these new materials have the particularity to reduce the used products at such size that escape to a control and therefore is not yet in a position to know the effects at the level of individual use, rather than for the collective effects related accumulation and not disposing of these products. Which both the quantity and the quality of these products is not known, and what is really the potential danger to their spread equally is also not known.
Nanotechnology is so a broad and complex field that has in common the only element of the “size scale”, and since it is also a multiplicity specification that offers ample opportunities for research and business , however , must be protected with a clear policy and an effective patent protection.
Manufacturing and industrial processes , biomedicine, pharmaceuticals ,transport, aeronautical and space engineering but also ICT, food technology, defense, sports and entertainment technology and cosmetics: these are just a few of the areas of application of nanotechnologies. These different economic sectors and product categories are often subject to laws and regulations of different severity. For example, medications are subjected to very strict regulations and must be approved by a special authority before being introduced on the market. The degree of regulation of a product category or sector is generally based on the security expectations of the community. On the one hand, the legislator with the law can define general guidelines that appeal to a wide circle of recipients. On the other hand, there are also many areas (areas of application, domains, product categories) specific legal provisions that address the matter in detail.
Nanotechnology can be viewed as distinct cross-cutting technologies that are applied in the fields and in such diverse products. Thus far in the EU there aren’t general “nano-laws“, which deal exclusively with nanotechnology regardless of the field of employment. The fields mostly singularly analyzed at the moment in the EU are the food and the cosmetic ones, for them at the first step it is expected that their nanomaterials, before being placed in the food market or in a pharmacy, are subject to specific tests according to standard criteria for the assessment of risk and without the use of animals. In terms of sectorial regulation however, there are several international examples where aspects of nano-specific ordinances are included already in the individual sectors.
Nanotechnology is often described as potentially “disruptive” or “revolutionary” at the level of impact on industrial production methods. They provide instead possible solutions to a series of problems thanks to materials, components and systems smaller, lighter, faster and more effective. These possibilities open up new opportunities for the creation of wealth and employment. Just think about a nearly example: the transistor technology ; it is currently used in computer processors taking the name of CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor), and it has been developed, inter alia, for first electronic watch as it used much less electricity than previous technologies.
Nanotechnology is expected to also make an important contribution to solving global and environmental challenges allow us to create products and processes for more specific uses, save resources and reduce the volume of waste and emissions. As every new discover, it is important to formulate good and technical legal regulation, to avoid possible legal but also ethical and social problems.