Professor Murmann's Blog: Getting a better sense of just how small a nanometer is

Getting a better sense of just how small a nanometer is

I am doing a bit of research on history and prospects of nano technology. Since 2000 the US government has an a nano technology initiative to ensure that the country stays what people consider a radical new technology to create new materials and structures. The chips in our computers and smartphones are getting ever more powerful because engineers are able to use nano technology to pack ever more transistors onto a chip.  In addition to providing useful short history of nanotechnology, Nano.gov gives an useful illustration just how small is “nano”?

Nano Scale

In the International System of Units, the prefix “nano” means one-billionth, or 10-9; therefore one nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. It’s difficult to imagine just how small that is, so here are some examples:

  • A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick

  • A strand of human DNA is 2.5 nanometers in diameter

  • There are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch

  • A human hair is approximately 80,000- 100,000 nanometers wide

  • A single gold atom is about a third of a nanometer in diameter

  • On a comparative scale, if the diameter of a marble was one nanometer, then diameter of the Earth would be about one meter

  • One nanometer is about as long as your fingernail grows in one second

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