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What are microns?


A preliminary clarification before explaining what microns are: the use of the period and the comma to express numerical figures in writing.

In the International System of Units, the comma is used to separate units from fractions when writing a figure. For example, a length is 4 and a half meters is expressed:

4,5 m

The period is used to facilitate the reading of figures with more than four digits. The dot is used to separate every three digits.  For example, a length of four thousand three hundred and twenty-eight and a half meters is expressed:

4.328,5 m

In the Anglo-Saxon System of Units, the period is used to separate fractions, and the comma is used to facilitate reading.

If the figure “three million, four hundred and thirty-eight thousand, two hundred and fifty-four meters and forty-seven hundredths (of a meter) is to be expressed in writing, it is written as follows:

Unit system
How to write the described figure

Mexico formally follows the International System and the United States follows the Anglo-Saxon System.

The technological influence of the United States in Mexico is so strong (they publish many more books, studies, etc.) that in the commercial and business environment, in our country we follow the Anglo-Saxon System of Units to write figures. Therefore, it is much more common to separate fractions with a period.

Based on this, in this brief article, we will follow the Anglo-Saxon System of Units to write figures.

What is the fundamental unit of length in the International System of Units?

It is the meter.

Its symbol is “m”. It should not be capitalized, plural or period, since it is not an abbreviation.

Multiples and submultiples of the meter as a unit of measurement.

The most commonly used multiple is the kilometer (km), which is equivalent to 1000 meters.

The most commonly used submultiples are:

Decimeter (dm) = 0.1 meters.
Centimeter (cm) = 0.01 meters
Millimeter (mm) = 0.001 meters.

From the opposite perspective:

10 dm = 1 m
100 cm = 1 m
1000 mm = 1 m

What is a micron or micrometer?

A micron or micrometer is another submultiple of the unit of measurement, meter, and corresponds to one millionth of that unit. Its symbol is μm.

1,000,000 μm = 1 m


1,000 μm = 1 mm

What is the difference between micrometer and micron?

They’re the same.

What are these units of measurement used for?

They are used to express lengths so small that in meters or millimeters, they would correspond to fractional values. In other words, they are used to facilitate the reading, writing and understanding of small lengths.

For example, the smallest bacterium cannot pass through a circular opening of 0.2 microns in diameter. If we express this in meters or centimeters:

0.2 μm = 0.0002 mm = 0.2 x10-6 m

What is the size of the smallest particle that the human eye can see?

40 μm

What are some examples of dimensions that are expressed in microns or microns?

Size in μm
Diameter of a human hair
Between 60 and 80
Mite length
1 to 4
Size of the largest particles that form the fumes
Size of bacteria
0.2 a 10
Size of viruses
0.005 a 0.2
Yeast size
2 a 90
Pollen size
12 a 200
Size of organic macromolecules
0.008 a 2
Size of airborne particles retained in the external respiratory tract of a human being
Bigger than 10
Size of airborne particles that reach the alveoli of a human being.
Smaller than 1

In which technical areas are microns used?

Among others, microns are used in microbiology and in liquid or gas filtration.

What is the pore opening of the membranes used to treat water and other liquids?

Pore opening (μm)
0.1 – 1.0
0.01 – 0.1
0.001 – 0.01
Reverse Osmosis (hyperfiltration)
0.0001 – 0.001


Are there units of length measurement that correspond to dimensions smaller than a micron?


1 micron (μm) = 1000 nanometers (nm)

1 nanometer (nm) = 10 Angstroms (Å)

1 nanometer (nm) = 1000 picometers (pm)

1 picometer (pm) = 1000 femtometers (fm)

¿Qué es un micrómetro, como instrumento de medición?

It is an instrument that accurately measures lengths in the order of thousandths of a millimeter (0.001 mm) to hundredths of a millimeter (0.01 mm). That is, lengths in the order of 1 to 10 μm.

There are micrometers that use different technologies to fulfill their purpose.


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