Just how small is “nano”? In the International System of Units, the prefix “nano” means one-billionth, or 10-9 (0.000000001); therefore one nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. It’s difficult to imagine just how small a scale that is, so here are a few examples to put it in perspective:

  • A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick
  • A strand of human DNA is 2.5 nanometers in diameter
  • The smallest microprocessor transistor gate oxide thickness is 2.5 nanometers
  • A cell’s membrane is 6 to 10 nanometers in thickness
  • There are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch (alternatively, there are 10,000,000 nanometers in a centimeter)
  • A human hair is approximately 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide
  • A single atom of gold is roughly 1/3 of a nanometer in diameter
  • One nanometer is about as long as your fingernail grows in one second
  • One nanometer is roughly the thickness of a carbon nanotube

The infographic below has three examples of the size and the scale of nanotechnology, showing just how small things at the nanoscale actually are. How small is nano? Source: http://www.nano.gov/nanotech-101/what/nano-size http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(length)