Credit: TU Delft

Every year, people everywhere in the world try to make the biggest artificial Christmas tree, similar to the Gubbio Christmas Tree, formed by 1000s of lights on the slopes of Mount Ingino, or the illumination of the 372-meter high transmission pole at Lopik in The Netherlands.

Maura Willems, a student of Applied Physics at the Delft University of Technology, decided to do the inverse. She made what is likely the world’s smallest Christmas tree.

For her graduation, Willems works with a scanning tunneling microscope, a complex device that is equipped with scanning individual atoms and even changing their position. She uses this microscope to build small structures, literally atom by atom, in order to study their quantum mechanical properties.

world's smallest Christmas tree
Credit: TU Delft

But sometimes, you can also use technology for something more fun.

Willems came up with the idea of making a Christmas tree by removing 51 atoms from a perfect crystal lattice. The tree is exactly 4 nanometers tall, or 4 millionths of a millimeter. But that is, admittedly, without counting the tree-topper.