If you run out of frosting and ginger during this season'ssession, you can always use a focused ion beam microscope to etch out your gingerbread house with a sandblaster-like beam of charged gallium ions. That's what researcher Travis Casagrande did when he created the world's tiniest gingerbread house.
"We wanted to spark some scientific curiosity. We wanted to demonstrate the techniques of our microscopes, such as this one, for researchers who are doing materials research or any other kind of research that might benefit from the use of this kind of technology," Casagrande said in a video demonstration at McMaster University.
The researchers didn't stop with a gingerbread house, though. The tiny dwelling is actually perched on the head of a comparably less-tiny snowman, which is made from a material used in lithium-ion battery research.
The same technology the researchers use for micro-gingerbread houses can also prepare even smaller samples for use in the center's powerful transmission electron microscopes, which are capable of capturing images down to the level of a single atom, the university said in a release.