92 (nanometers)

“What’s a nano?  Think small, very, very small, a billionth of a meter small. Comparing a nano to a meter is like comparing a marble to the Earth.” Health Building News

.000000001 = 10-9 = 1.0 X 10-9 = 1/1,000,000,000 meter = 1 nanometer

In this tiny world, nanometers measure atoms and molecules. For example, 1 nanometer equals the length of 10 hydrogen atoms in a row.

92 nanometers = 1 tiny switch in this computer

“Inside of your computer are tiny switches that are only 100 nanometers wide. About 1,000 of these switches can fit across the width of a single hair. Modern computers have about 100,000,000 switches packed inside, stacked one on top of another. We use nanotechnology to make these tiny switches.” Nanooze

The sense of smell call also be measured by nanometers. “We can think of the smell of freshly baked cookies… The molecules that are released from the cookie when it bakes are less than a nanometer in size and so they are carried through the air to our noses because they are so small. Gravity does not have much of an effect on them and so they float along. They reach our noses and when they are very very close, less than a nanometer away, we can smell them.”

We need to better understand the impact at the human scale of something developed at the nanoscale.  Nanotechnology is developing rapidly in many fields because the demand for faster production and greener products is increasing globally. (10+7)  In Health Building News, Penny Bonda questions if nanotechnology is making something really safer or better in NanoSphere – Friend or Foe.  “Designtex recently announced the addition of Schoeller Technology’s NanoSphere to its repertoire of textile finishes, as a replacement for highly toxic perfluorocarbon stain and water repellants…The [Hohenstein Research] Institute tested the biological safety of NanoSphere for possible biological activity (cytotoxicity and genotoxicity and HET-CAM) and confirms that the new formulation passed these tests with excellent ratings.”  These tests are at the scale of cells (10-6) and DNA (10-8).  “Cytotoxicity is the quality of being toxic to cell health. It is typically measured by treating cells in culture and observing how many of the cells survive. Genotoxicity is the quality of being damaging to a cell’s genetic material or causing cancerous tumor growth and also measured by observing cells in culture. HET-CAM stands for Hen’s Egg Test Chorioallantoic Membrane – a test using study of reaction of a hen’s egg that is used to assess potential eye irritation.”

Penny Bonda still wondered if nanotechnology could be too good to be true. She took her concerns to Health Building Network’s Tom Lent  who responded: “Nanotechnology may offer great promise for solving many performance challenges without the excessive use of chemicals, but may do it at a cost of yet new human health hazards. The technology is still in its infancy, with major questions outstanding about how these microscopic scale materials may interact with and affect our bodies.”  Hopefully new tests are being developed to better comprehend how the nanoscale influences the human scale.

Hat tip to Bonnie Thomas

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