How Small is "Nano"?
How small is “nano”?
Nanotechnology deals with the very smallest components of our world – atoms and molecules. Trying to understand just how small the nanoscale is can be very difficult for people. A nanometer is a unit of measurement for length just as you have with meters and centimeters. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, 0.000000001 or 10-9 meters. The word nano comes from the Greek word for “dwarf.” The term nanoscale is used to refer to objects with dimensions on the order of 1-100 nanometers (nm).
To understand how small a nanometer is, we typically compare the nanoscale to objects that we know how big or small they are. Here are some examples:
- a human hair is about 60,000 – 100,000 nm wide
- a fingernail grows 1 nm per second
- a DNA molecule is ~2.5 nm in width
- a 2 meter person is 6 feet 6 inches tall or 2 billion nanometers
Another way to help in the understanding of the minuteness of a nanometer is to examine objects on a size scale. Follow this link to an interactive scale to examine the size for a variety of objects -http://www2.mcrel.org/NanoLeap/multimedia/Nanosize_me.swf .
Other useful resources to help understand size and scale include:
- Powers of Ten – explores the relative size of things from the microscopic to the cosmic
- Scale of the Universe – explores from the size of the universe down to the atomic world.
- Cells Alive How Big video – explores size of objects based on the powers of ten
- Nanoreisen: Adventures beyond the decimal – take a nano journey to explore the macro, micro, and nano worlds.
- Molecular Expressions™ Secret Worlds: The Universe Within – Explore from the cosmos to the nanoscale
- Amazing Creature with Nanoscale Features – this animation is an introduction to microscopy, scale, and applications of nanoscale properties
Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Schematicky_atom.png; cs:Image:Schematicky atom.png