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For examples of things measuring between one and ten femtometres, see 1 femtometre.
Unit system metric
Unit of length
Symbol fm 
Unit conversions
1 fm in ... ... is equal to ...
   SI units    1×10−15 m
   Natural units    6.1877×1019 P
1.8897×10−5 a0
   imperial/US units    3.9370×10−14 in

The femtometre (American spelling femtometer, symbol fm[1][2][3] derived from the Danish and Norwegian word femten, "fifteen"+Ancient Greek: μέτρον, metrοn, "unit of measurement") is an SI unit of length equal to 10−15 metres. This distance can also be called a fermi and was so named in honour of physicist Enrico Fermi, as it is a typical length-scale of nuclear physics.

Definition and equivalents[edit]

1000 attometres = 1 femtometre = 1 fermi = 0.001 picometre = 1×10−15 metres

1000000 femtometres = 10 ångström = 1 nanometre.

For example, the charge radius of a proton is approximately 0.84–0.87 femtometres[4] while the radius of a gold nucleus is approximately 8.45 femtometres.[5]

1 barn = 100 fm2


The femtometre was adopted by the 11th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures, and added to SI in 1964.

The fermi is named after the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901–1954), one of the founders of nuclear physics. The term was coined by Robert Hofstadter in a 1956 paper published in Reviews of Modern Physics entitled "Electron Scattering and Nuclear Structure".[6] The term is widely used by nuclear and particle physicists. When Hofstadter was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics, it subsequently appears in the text of his 1961 Nobel Lecture, "The electron-scattering method and its application to the structure of nuclei and nucleons" (December 11, 1961).[7]


  1. ^ [1] Archived May 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Units: F". Unc.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  3. ^ "Nuclear Size and Shape" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. 
  4. ^ "The Case of the Shrinking Proton | Perimeter Institute". Perimeterinstitute.ca. 2013-08-23. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  5. ^ Blatt, John M.; Weisskopf, Victor F. (1952), Theoretical Nuclear Physics, New York: Wiley, pp. 14–16.
  6. ^ Hofstadter, Robert, Department of Physics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, "Electron Scattering and Nuclear Structure," Rev. Mod. Phys. 28, 214–254 (1956) © 1956 The American Physical Society
  7. ^ Hofstadter, Robert, "The electron-scattering method and its application to the structure of nuclei and nucleons," Nobel Lecture (December 11, 1961)