10-09 100 billion nanometer dash

[Image above] How fast can you run 100 billion nanometers? Credit: International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University, YouTube

A lot of math departments break out the pie on March 14. Chemistry departments pen songs (not) about furry little mammals to celebrate October 23. But between these two unofficial holidays exists another “small” celebration that is often overlooked—National Nanotechnology Day!

#NationalNanoDay takes place today, October 9, to help raise awareness about nanotechnology, how it is currently used in everyday products, and the challenges and opportunities it holds for the future. The date—10/9—pays homage to the nanometer scale, 10-9 meters.

Many activities celebrating National Nano Day are coordinated by the 20 federal departments and independent agencies involved with the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).

NNI is a U.S. government research and development initiative that strives for “a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to a revolution in technology and industry that benefits society,” according to the NNI website. Since its inception in 2001, the U.S. government has invested nearly $28 billion in NNI.

The following five federal organizations receive the largest investments.

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): nanotechnology-based biomedical research at the intersection of life and physical sciences
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): fundamental research and education across all disciplines of science and engineering
  • Department of Energy (DOE): fundamental and applied research providing a basis for new and improved energy technologies
  • Department of Defense (DOD): science and engineering research advancing defense and dual-use capabilities
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): fundamental research and development of measurement and fabrication tools, analytical methodologies, metrology, and standards for nanotechnology

The NNI website lists several activities planned for today’s celebration, including a public webinar by the American Chemical Society on progress and challenges in nanomaterial design; a takeover of the American Chemistry Council’s Twitter account; a National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure image contest; and simultaneous remote access microscopy demo sessions hosted by the Remotely Accessible Instruments for Nanotechnology (RAIN) Network.

Are you interested in holding a National Nano Day activity? One idea NNI suggests is a 100 billion nanometer dash. Though it sounds large, 100 billion nanometers is equal to 100 meters (328 feet). If you are confined to the hallway in your science department, though, you instead can do what researchers at the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University did—a 10 billion nanometer (10 meter) dash, which you can see in the video below .

If you feel one day to celebrate science is too short, never fear—this whole week is actually National Metric Week!

The metric system, a measurement system based on tens, is held each year the week of October 10 (10/10). If you are someone versed solely in the imperial system, this handy xkcd comic provides some tips on converting to metric.

Credit: International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University, YouTube