Researcher’s tiny gingerbread house just a tenth of a hair in length

Travis Casagrande’s gingerbread house is outfitted with a wreath, a snow-capped roof and, of course, a Christmas tree.

But you probably couldn’t see all that without a microscope.

That’s because Casagrande, a research associate at McMaster University in Ontario, built a gingerbread house he said is just one-tenth of a hair long — and 20,000 times smaller than the average store-bought cookie home.

It’s a festive, if minuscule, display of ingenuity. Casagrande told CNN he hopes it sparks “scientific curiosity” in people who’d never thought about electron microscopy before.

So how does one build what the university is touting as the world’s tiniest gingerbread house?

Ditch the gingerbread altogether.

Casagrande used an ion beam microscope to blast four walls and a roof out of silicon. He even delicately etched in a door, windows and the logos for the university and its Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy, where he constructed the wee model.

“Some of the construction of this was quite unconventional, though, so I had to come up with new techniques,” he said.

It all sits on top of a winking snowman, itself already a fraction of the size of the hulking strand of human hair it’s next to. In comparison, the hair looks like a massive tree trunk.

His everyday work focuses on making materials more efficient, so blasting a gingerbread house and snowman out of silicon was a novel treat — one he hopes inspires the scientific community and Christmas celebrants to appreciate tiny, hard work.

But it’s not the first time he’s taken up a tiny task: For Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, he planted a minuscule Canadian flag in the branch of a letter on a penny. That was 10 micrometers long, too.