Tiny flag sets big record


The Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo earned a Guinness World Record for creating a Canadian Flag that is one one hundredth the width of a human hair. It is the smallest national flag in existence and cannot be seen without using an electron microscope.

The Institute unveiled the nano-scale flag at an open house Sept. 17 to an excited crowd of over 1,000 visitors.

The nano-sized flag was created by Nathan Nelson-Fitzpatrick, a nanofabrication engineer that works with the institute. He was assisted by UW co-op student Natalie Prinslinger Pinchin from the faculty of engineering.

Tobi Day-Hamilton, associate director of communications and strategic initiatives at the IQC, said the flag is an exciting accomplishment for the university.

“The best perk to having a Guinness World Record is knowing that we set this record,” Day-Hamilton said. “Waterloo will always be known as the first to set a Guinness World Record for a nano-scale national flag. Waterloo has world-leading researchers in quantum information and nanotechnology so it’s fitting for us to set and hold the record.”

The flag itself was created using the IQC’s new electron beam lithography system. According to Day-Hamilton, the most difficult part of the project was creating the miniscule stem for the maple leaf. She said, “The stem is only 20 nanometers wide and so extremely fragile.”

The group working on the nano flag were given specifications by Guinness World Records that the flag had to be no larger than five micrometres in length; the flag produced by the engineers at IQC was approximately 1000 times smaller than that.

Currently, the nano flag at the IQC at UW is the only one officially recorded, setting the precedent for any competitors.

The future of the tiny flag is looking big. It is part of a travelling museum show entitled QUANTUM: The Exhibition, premiering in the region at Themuseum Oct. 14, 2016. The display will run until January 2017 after which the flag will travel cross country, being highlighted in the discussion of quantum sciences and the future of this technology in Canada. 

As Canada prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2017, this tiny flag created at UW will earn our country a big spot on the international technological stage.

This article has been edited to correct the gender misidentification of Tobi Day-Hamilton.


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