Published: Saturday, Dec 15, 2012
Updated: Sunday, Sep 2, 2018

World's smallest greeting card

A microscopic holiday greeting

Laser capture microdissection (LCM) is a specialized form of microscopy intended for the isolation and retrieval of biological materials of interest. But, honestly, it’s really just a micron-scale laser engraver. And what better use is there for a tiny laser engraver than to make a tiny greeting card? But not just any card, the world’s smallest greeting card!

After tweaking and calibrating the Zeiss PALM CombiSystem, I was able to etch my holiday greeting design onto a 50μm x 50μm polymer membrane. By my account, this was the smallest holiday greeting card of its time. The image was picked up by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and used as the final post of the Zeiss Advent Calendar.

Ok, so I should say that LCM is not all fun and games. There are some very practical applications for these systems and my greeting card exemplifies a particular aspect of their capabilities — the potential to accurately extract micron-scale features for downstream analysis. Using a UV laser and a 100x/1.4NA objective, laser cutting widths of 1μm are possible. Through my work as a Microscopy Technician at the MBL, I have assisted researchers in using LCM for projects ranging from single-cell PCR to the purification of bacterial colonies.