Celebrating Canada in the smallest way: Researcher mounts microscopic flag in the surface of a penny

June 30, 2017

A research engineer with the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy at McMaster University has produced a microscopic three-dimensional flag, hidden within the surface of a Canadian penny.

Invisible to the naked eye, the microscopic Canadian flag flies on a flagpole 1/100th the diameter of a human hair.

CCEM’s Travis Casagrande said his team was inspired by the opportunity to celebrate Canada’s 150thbirthday and to demonstrate the capabilities of one of the centre’s high-powered microscopes.

To make the flag, Casagrande used a focused ion beam microscope, which can both cut into and reshape material and provide highly detailed images of the material’s surface. Casagrande fabricated the tiny flag by using a focused beam of charged particles to carve a tiny hole in the penny, leaving the flagpole standing in the centre.

He moved the beam to a different area and cut the flag shape from the material’s surface. After the flag was cut away from the penny it was moved to the pole and ‘raised’ by attaching it to the pole with a deposited metal layer. Finally, the design was carved into the flag using the focused beam.

“At the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy, part of our mission is to spread knowledge of materials science and the capabilities of electron microscopy to a broad Canadian audience. It is great fun, this year, to combine this with our little contribution to Canada’s birthday celebrations,” said CCEM Scientific Director Gianluigi Botton.

Located on the campus of McMaster University and operated by the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research, the CCEM features a state-of-the-art suite of microscopes and full-time, experienced staff. 

The centre was established to provide Canadian and international researchers with world-class facilities to study materials using electron microscopy and to be the go-to provider of electron microscopy services to Canadian industry. As one of the leading electron microscopy facilities in the world for the quality of scientific research, the CCEM promotes Canadian research expertise around the world.

McMaster Engineering

McMaster Engineering

Fei Chiang

Invisible to the naked eye, the microscopic Canadian flag flies on a flagpole 1/100th the diameter of a human hair.


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