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Micron vs. Nanometer — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 30, 2023
A micron is a unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter (1µm = 10^-6m), while a nanometer is one billionth of a meter (1nm = 10^-9m).
Micron vs. Nanometer — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Micron and Nanometer


Key Differences

A micron is a unit of measurement also known as a micrometer. It is equal to one millionth of a meter. The term “micron” comes from the Greek word “mikros,” meaning small. A nanometer is much smaller, at one billionth of a meter. It's a unit used in the metric system and is often used to measure things at the atomic scale.
When discussing scale and precision, the micron is a common unit of measurement in fields such as microbiology and technology manufacturing. In comparison, the nanometer is utilized in nanotechnology and materials science where structures are often just a few atoms in size. While a micron is larger than a nanometer, both represent extremely small measurements far beyond what is visible to the naked eye.
In the context of wavelengths of light, some are measured in microns, such as infrared radiation. Nanometers are typically used to describe the wavelengths of visible light or smaller, such as ultraviolet radiation. This indicates that while both units measure length, the contexts in which they are applied can differ significantly.
Computer chip manufacturing technology is often referred to in nanometers, indicating the size of the smallest feature that can be created on the silicon chip. This was once measured in microns, but as technology has advanced, the precision has increased to the point where nanometer-scale measurement is now standard.
The conversion between micron and nanometer is straightforward: 1 micron equals 1,000 nanometers. Therefore, when converting measurements, one must consider the scale at which they are working, as a misinterpretation between these two units could lead to significant errors due to their difference in magnitude.

Comparison Chart




10^-6 meters
10^-9 meters

Scientific Usage

Microbiology, filtration
Nanotechnology, semiconductors

Common Reference Point

Human hair width
DNA molecule width


1,000 nanometers
0.001 microns

Compare with Definitions


A micron is a unit of length equal to 10^-6 meters.
The diameter of this strand of silk is about 15 microns.


The nanometer is a unit commonly used in nanotechnology.
Scientists can manipulate individual atoms using tools that operate on the scale of nanometers.


The micron is a metric unit of measurement used in scientific studies.
Pollen grains can range from 10 to 100 microns in size.


A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.
The transistors in modern processors are only a few nanometers wide.


In industrial contexts, a micron is a common unit for expressing tolerances.
The new machine can manufacture components with precision up to 0.5 microns.


In semiconductor manufacturing, the nanometer denotes the size of the smallest feature on a chip.
They've developed a new 7-nanometer chip technology.


The micron measures things that are too small to see with the naked eye.
The micron is an ideal unit for measuring air pollutants.


A nanometer is a metric unit that helps quantify molecular scale objects.
The thickness of a cell membrane is typically around 10 nanometers.


A unit of length equal to one millionth of a metre, used in many technological and scientific fields.


Nanometers measure the wavelengths of light, especially in the field of optics.
The wavelength of green light is about 530 nanometers.


A unit of length equal to one thousandth (10-3) of a millimeter or one millionth (10-6) of a meter. Also called micrometer.


One billionth (10-9) of a meter.


(physics) The thousandth part of one millimeter; the millionth part of a meter.


Alternative spelling of nanometre


(figurative) A very tiny amount.


A metric unit of length equal to one billionth of a meter


(linguistics) breve


A measure of length; the thousandth part of one millimeter; the millionth part of a meter.


A metric unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter


A micron, or micrometer, is often used in the field of microscopy.
Under the microscope, we observed bacteria that were approximately 2 microns long.

Common Curiosities

How many nanometers are there in a micron?

There are 1,000 nanometers in a micron.

Are microns and nanometers used in measuring light wavelengths?

Yes, microns are used for infrared wavelengths, and nanometers for visible to ultraviolet light.

In what fields is the micron used?

The micron is commonly used in microbiology, material science, and filtration.

Why has the semiconductor industry moved from using microns to nanometers?

Due to advancements allowing for smaller features, requiring the more precise unit of nanometers.

Can the average person see a micron or nanometer with the naked eye?

No, both are far too small to be seen without magnification.

What is a common object that is about one micron in size?

A typical bacterium is about one micron in length.

Can we use microns to measure air quality?

Yes, air quality particulates are often measured in microns.

What is a micron?

A micron is a unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter.

What is a nanometer?

A nanometer is a unit of length equal to one billionth of a meter.

What instruments measure in microns?

Micrometers and certain types of microscopes can measure in microns.

What is the significance of the term "7-nanometer technology" in computing?

It refers to the size of the smallest transistor features in a computer chip.

Is a micron larger than a nanometer?

Yes, a micron is 1,000 times larger than a nanometer.

Is it possible to convert microns to nanometers easily?

Yes, by multiplying the number of microns by 1,000, you can convert to nanometers.

Are microns still used in technology, or have they been completely replaced by nanometers?

Microns are still used, especially in contexts where nanometer precision is not required.

What uses a nanometer-scale measurement in electronics?

The features of integrated circuits in processors are measured in nanometers.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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