A research associate, Travis Casagrande at McMaster University in Ontario built a gingerbread house which is one-tenth of a hair long and 20,000 times smaller than the average store-bought cookie home. According to the research, Casagrande created and stacked two richly detailed decorations and both of them together are barely taller than the diameter of a human hair. While speaking to an international media outlet, Casagrande said that he hopes that his unique creation sparks 'scientific curiosity' in people who'd never thought about electron microscopy before.
The research associate cut and etched a gingerbread house from silicon, complete with sharply defined bricks and trim and a Canada flag for a welcome mat. He used an ion beam microscope to blast four walls and a roof out of silicon. He also delicately etched in a door, windows and the logos for the university and its Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy. He reportedly said that some of the construction of this was quite unconventional so he had to come up with new techniques. The creation all sits on top of winking snowman, itself already a fraction of the size of the hulking strand of human hair it is next to. While comparing the tiny wonder to a hair strand, the hair looks like a massive tree trunk.
In the official website, Casagrande explains that his intention was to demonstrate the capabilities of the centre, which is a national facility with a suite of 10 electron microscopes and other equipment used mostly for materials research by Canadian and international users from both the academic and industrial sectors. He further hopes that his holiday project will stir curiosity among the public and let other researchers see what the centre is capable of doing. According to reports, his everyday work focuses on making materials more efficient, so blasting a gingerbread house and snowman out of silicon was a novel treat. Back in 2017, for Canada's 150th birthday, he also planted a minuscule Canadian flag in the branch of a letter on a penny which was 10 micrometres long, too.
Casagrande says, “I think projects like this create science curiosity. I think for both children and adults, it’s important to be curious about science. Looking into how this was made leads to more interest in science, and that builds more science literacy, which allows everyone to make better decisions.”