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How to print high-res images the size of a human hair

Posting in Science

How large is the actual image? It is the same size as a single human hair - but how?

If the image looks pixelated or badly resized, don't let it fool you. It is actually a close-up of an image which measures just 50 micrometers across -- the same as a single human hair.

The world's highest resolution color printer, which produced the image, was developed by researchers at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore.

According to the creative minds behind the machine, the new printing technique it uses can theoretically produce images in full color of up to 100,000 dots per inch.

To put things in perspective, your average household printer can produce images of up to 10,000 dots per inch.

According to the authors of the study, which is published in Nature, the highest possible resolution for a color image is "determined by the diffraction limit of visible light." Instead, the non-colorant method the team used bypasses the limited scalability of normal colored ink.

Instead of coloring particular sections of an image with different inks, an ultrathin metal film covers the entire image causing encoded colors to appear at the same time. Each pixel is printed through deposits of four metal nanostructures -- each just tens of nanometers in size -- which are then capped with nanodisks.

The nanostructures can be spaced differently to control the light they reflect, which then changes the palette -- certainly a world away from standard methods.

Dr Karthik Kumar, one of the key researchers explained to The Petri dish:

"The resolution of printed colour images very much depends on the size and spacing between individual 'nanodots' of color. The closer the dots are together and because of their small size, the higher the resolution of the image.

With the ability to accurately position these extremely small color dots, we were able to demonstrate the highest theoretical print colour resolution of 100,000 DPI."

The new printing technique could be used for a variety of applications, says the team; including printing high resolution watermarks and high-density data storage disks, optical filters, and even entering the fantasy world of spies to create secret messages.

The research was published online in Nature Nanotechnology.

(via Nature)

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure