Aug. 13, 2012 at 12:34 PM ET
Blown-up images can look grainy and this image of the famous Lena is no exception. But, then again, it is enlarged from an image printed at just 50-by-50 micrometers, which is about the size of a human hair.
Indeed, the image was created using a method for printing colors at the highest possible resolution — about 100,000 dots per inch. It could be useful to print secret messages or for high-density data storage.
Each pixel in the image is made up of four nanoscale posts capped with silver or gold nanodisks, Nature News explains. Varying the diameter of the structures and spaces between them controls the color of light they reflect.
The technique was pioneered by researchers at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore and reported Sunday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
As a proof of concept, the team chose to make a print of Lena Soderberg, a highly detailed image of a Swedish model who was the 1972 centerfold in Playboy magazine. The image is widely used today as a printing standard.
The resolution of the image is the highest possible — about 10 times higher than possible with an inkjet or laser printer. Put the pixels closer together and light reflecting off of them will diffract, causing a blurring effect.
According to Nature News, the researchers have applied for a patent for the printing method and aim to commercialize the technology for as nonoscale watermarks.