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Best possible high-res printing achieved 

Image of Lena
This is an enlargement of image at just 50-by-50 micrometers, printed at the highest definition possible.Yang, et. al.

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.

If the image was actually large enough to see by the naked eye, it would “look higher than high resolution,” Teri Odom, a chemist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, told Nature News

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.

— Via Gizmodo and Nature News

John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.