Physics student builds the smallest Christmas tree ever

It’s the time of year to be happy and what better way to celebrate than to put a big Christmas tree in your living room?

However, an applied physics student at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands had a different view of what her Christmas tree would look like this year.

“See, the smallest #ChristmasTree in the world!” Read a TU Delft post Office on twitter.

Indeed, Maura Willems decided to create what is arguably the smallest Christmas tree in the world.


The equipment Willems used was much larger than the tree it had ultimately created. The complex device was a scanning tunneling microscope that could be used to scan individual atoms to build small structures.

It literally does this one atom at a time to study the individual quantum mechanical properties of each atom.

In the end, Willems had a “big” Christmas tree with 51 atoms, which is roughly the size of a strand of DNA. To deliver an idea, it’s about a human hair 40,000 times wider. We talk small.

Willems’ tree was accurate four nanometers in size, or four millionths of a millimeter – without counting the treetops.

It’s fun to see such complex devices build a joyful creation like a Christmas tree. It might not be very useful, but it’s a little light-hearted physics fun.

There’s not a big chance you can buy a Christmas bobble like this, but here’s a list of things to buy this season if you’re looking for a little last-minute inspiration.