London, Ont. scientist builds 'world's smallest snowman'

Todd Simpson, a research scientist at the University of Western Ontario's nanofabrication lab has created a minuscule snowman to spread the holiday spirit.

Nonfabrication lab at Western University makes snowman 50 times thinner than a human hair

Todd Simpson, a scientific researcher at Western University has created the world's smallest snowman. The holly jolly fellow is less than one micron across. For comparison, an average thin human hair is 50 microns in diameter. (NanoFab/Western University)

There was no magic involved in creating a tiny snowman that is smaller than a human hair, says an Ontario research scientist who describes his jolly holiday creation as the world's smallest. 

Todd Simpson, who works in the Western Nanofabrication Facility at Western University in London, Ont., created his minuscule snowman out of tiny silica spheres that are less than one micron in diameter.

That's quite small, considering a typical fine hair is about 50 microns in diameter, explained Simpson.

Scientists at Western University have created what they’re calling the world’s smallest snowman. (NanoFab/Western University)

He stumbled upon the snowman idea back in 2005, when a stack of three spheres emerged from a mistake during one of his experiments.

"I came across this little stack of three that looked like a little snowman, so I put a face and arms on him with the annotation feature — I just drew them on," he said. "We actually used it as a Christmas card."

Then he used instruments to give the snowman actual arms and a nose. Next, he carved out a face. The intricate construction took just a few seconds, according to Simpson.

"It requires some pretty sophisticated instruments and a lot of experience but it's actually quite easy," he said. "I think the arms took about 10 seconds each and the nose was two or three seconds."