New Laser Tech Can Print the Mona Lisa on a Single Hair

First Posted: Dec 16, 2015 03:23 PM EST

Imagine if this article could be printed on a single hair. That's exactly what scientists have managed with a new, revolutionary laser printing technology. With it, it's now possible to print an entire picture, or article, in color on an area no bigger than a hair.

The researchers were actually able to reproduce a color image of Mona Lisa, which is less than one pixel on an iPhone Retina display. The new laser technology allows researchers to print in a resolution of just 127,000 DPI. In comparison, weekly or montly magazines are normally printed in a resolution equivalent to 300 DPI.

Printing the microscopic images, though, requires a special nanoscale-structured surface. The structure consists of rows with small columns with a diameter of merely 100 nanometers each. This structured surface is then covered by 20 nanometers of aluminum. When a laser pulse is transmitted from nanocolumn to nanocolumn, the nanocolumn is heated locally, after which it melts and is deformed. The temperature is high, but only stays that way for a few nanoseconds, which prevents the deformation from spreading.

The intensity of the laser beam determines which colors are printed on the surface, since the extent of column deformation decides which color is reflected. Low-intensity laser pulses lead to a minor deformation of the nanocolumn, resulting in blue and purple color tone reflections. Strong laser pulses create a drastic deformation, which gives the reflection from the nanocolumn an orange and yellow color tone.

But what could this be used for?

"It will be possible to save data invisible to the naked eye," said Anders Kristensen, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This includes serial numbers or bar codes of products and other information. The technology can also be used to combat fraud and forgery, as the products will be labelled in a way that makes them very difficult to reproduce. It will be easier to determine whether the product is an original or a copy."

The findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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