Fantastic Colour at Nano Scales

Due to an accidental discovery leading materials researchers to actually achieve the astounding heights of 100,000 dots per inch, which is a 1000% improvement on the previous high-resolution colour printing record.


The saying goes that the best things come in small packages, and this is amply proved by the use of nano-technology in the protection of data storage for digital files. This can be done by employing anti-counterfeiting micro-text, or even embedded intricate, micro-images that defy being copied.

Now, however, even this technology has been improved upon in miniaturization terms, due to an accidental discovery leading materials researchers to  actually achieve the astounding heights of 100,000 dots per inch, which is a 1000% improvement on the previous high-resolution colour printing record.

Singapore Institute of Materials Research and Engineering scientist Joel Yang led the team that developed the record-breaking method, claiming that if one has a metal – silver for example – and one carves it into tiny pieces, one get all kinds of colours dependant on nano-structure size involved.

The team tends to focus nano-plasmonics – an area of research involving shining light onto extremely small metal structures to cause oscillation in the electrons – something that holds promise for communication,  sensing and optical technologies. In another experiment on metal nanostructures, one team member looking at them under the microscope,
observed a whole range of colours.

 Seeing so many colours, the team decided to replicate a well-known picture of the face of a woman called Lena, first published in Playboy, and nowadays a traditional test for imaging processing quality.
When
asked just how small could the team could make colour pixel elements, and how closely – without it appearing as a single color –  could they put two colours together?

It was only then that the team realized that indeed they were printing at very high resolutions, and though other researchers had put different colours extremely close together successfully, approaches used involved dyes and pigments, whereas the Singapore scientists simply used nano-printing technique, basically encoding colour information into nanostructures.

Having done so, the team applied a silver coating on those structures to produce the colours, which could be used as an improved security measure on expensive items, or as an anti-counterfeiting measure.

This kind of nano-printing has great digital storage potential, with a possible factor of four to 10 times the amount of storage space compared to current state-of-the-art facilities, though there is a  downside in data cannot be rewritten or erased, once recorded. Of course the proof of any pudding is in the eating, and much depends on how the images look once they’ve been scaled up to something that you can see with the human eye. If many more beautiful colours can be put on display, the technology is sure to be a big hit.

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