Converting 5 Micrometers to Meters: How-to & Steps

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

What is a micrometer and how do you convert something measured in these units to a meter? This lesson goes over a step by step process for making this distance conversion.

Setting Up the Problem

You have just been hired as a lab assistant at a scientific research facility. You were tasked with writing down very precise measurements and then entering that data into a spreadsheet program. You have done all of your measuring and are just about to start entering the data in the spreadsheet when you discover a problem: your measurements are in micrometers, but the spreadsheet is asking for a measurement in meters. How do you change what you have recorded into the proper inputs in meters? It's really a simple process, once you know how to convert from micrometers to meters. Let's take a closer look at the details.

One easy way to convert from one set of units to another is to use a conversion factor, a ratio that compares the two units. To get from one set of units to another, simply take your measurement in one unit and multiply it by the correct conversion factor.

So, how big is a micrometer compared to a meter? It turns out to be a very small unit: in the metric system the 'micro' prefix means one millionth of the indicated units. So, our conversion factor going from micrometers to meters is:

( 1 meter / 1,000,000 micrometers )

It's very important that we use the correct comparison here. The rule of thumb when using conversion factors is to put the units you are converting TO on the top of the fraction and the units you are converting FROM on the bottom.

We've got our conversion factor all settled, now we need to multiply by the number you recorded when you took your first measurement, which is 5 micrometers.

( 5 micrometers ) ( 1 meter / 1,000,000 micrometers )

The units of micrometers will cancel out, since one micrometer divided by one micrometer is just 1. This will leave us with units in meters.

Solution

5 divided by 1,000,000 is 0.000005. This is the number that you will have to type into the spreadsheet program to correctly enter your measurement of 5 micrometers.

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