The question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin is unlikely to be discussed much this St Patrick’s Say, but a pin being presented in Washington DC today will feature the world’s smallest image of a shamrock etched on it.
The pin is an ordinary Trinity College silver lapel pin, featuring the coat of arms of the University. But one of the strings of the harp in the crest has been etched with a tiny shamrock using the Helium Ion Microscope at AMBER, the national materials research centre which is based at Trinity. 500 of these little shamrocks could fit across the width of a human hair, and the stem is just 5 nanometres wide, or about 30 atoms of silver.[youtube]http://youtu.be/-Na_et7jZoM[/youtube]
The pin will be presented to the recipient of the SFI St Patrick’s Day Science Medal today in Washington DC at The Wild Geese Network of Irish Scientists by Prof Michael Morris, AMBER Principal Investigator. The shamrock image was chosen to represent St Patrick’s Day and showcase the research excellence and infrastructure within AMBER, which is impacting a wide range of industry.
AMBER’s Helium Ion Microscope is the only one in Ireland and one of only a handful in Europe. The microscope enables very high resolution imaging of less than 1 nanometre and is used to image and pattern a range of materials. AMBER researchers use the microscope to image graphene and other 2D materials, bio-engineered scaffolds for tissue engineering and a range of polymer composites for research and industry purposes.