CRANN celebrates 10 years of nanoscience with world’s tiniest cake (video)

27 May 2013

Magnified view of the birthday cake etching created at CRANN

The Irish nanoscience institute CRANN is today marking its 10th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, some of the institute’s researchers have created what they believe is the world’s smallest birthday cake. How? They have etched a 500-nanometre cake image onto a coin using a Carl Zeiss Helium Ion Microscope.

To put the size of the cake etching in perspective: 500 nanometres is 2,000 times smaller than a grain of salt. The idea of the cake creation is to highlight the impact of the nanoscience research happening at CRANN.

Since its genesis 10 years ago, CRANN, which is based at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), has grown from six researchers to host more than 300 researchers. The Science Foundation Ireland-funded institute also works with more than 100 companies and has brought in €50m of non-Exchequer investment from industry and international funding streams.

The EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was at CRANN today. She spoke about the €1bn in funding the European Commission recently awarded for nanoscience research into the ‘wonder material’ graphene.

CRANN will play a role in the Graphene Flagship project, which will involve 126 academics and industry groups from 17 countries over the next 10 years.

Geoghegan-Quinn said CRANN is recognised for using “excellent research” for commercial impact.

“That link between industry and academia is a model which we aim to replicate across Europe, to ensure that the economic return of research is fully realised,” she said.

Minister of State Fergus O'Dowd, TD; CRANN director Prof John Boland; and EU Commissioner for Science, Research and Innovation Máire Geoghegan-Quinn pictured at the nanoscience institute today

Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd, TD; CRANN director Prof John Boland; and EU Commissioner for Science, Research and Innovation Máire Geoghegan-Quinn at the nanoscience institute today

Nanoscience is now linked to 10pc, or €15bn, of Ireland’s annual exports.

CRANN’s director Prof John Boland said Ireland is now ranked sixth internationally for nanoscience and eighth for materials science.

“We are also attracting researchers from other universities to Ireland’s shores, as well as developing indigenous research talent,” he said. “In the next decade, nanoscience in Ireland will lead on the international stage.”

To date, CRANN has filed almost 50 patent applications.

Check out the following video, where CRANN nanoscientist Alan Bell depicts how the institute etched the 500-nanometre birthday cake pattern onto a coin.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic