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This Monet reproduction is composed of tiny bits of metal assembled on the micron scale. (Photo: Tan et. al., Nano Letters)

This Monet Isn't the Real Thing—But It's Awfully Close

Nanoprinters can duplicate great artwork with remarkable precision

smithsonian.com

For most of art history, it's taken an expert painter to produce a high-quality enough forgery to pass for an original. Technology, however, can now rival that precision. Using a nanoprinter, researchers publishing in Nano Letters recently reproduced Claude Monet's "Impression, Sunrise"—the painting that art historians credit with giving rise to the Impressionist movement—with micron precision.

As NanoWerk reports, scientists from Singapore could print more than 300 colors on their nanoprinter, by using what they call plasmonic nanopixels. These aluminum-based disks create different color effects by resonating at different light frequencies; the distance between disks also affects the colors they produce. The scientist use a focused beam of electrons to replicate the Monet in nanopixels, on a silicon base. Then, they used a focused beam of electrons to create the replicated image on a silicon base.

As Wired describes, however, no one will be confusing the new print with the original because it is miniscule:

The Monet image you see here is itsy-bitsy (about 300 microns across or the size of three strands of hair) and its resolution is 30,000 dots per inch, which is much higher than a regular desktop printer. “A single drop of dye from a typical printer, would already be about the size of the entire print made with our technology,” says [researcher Joel K.W.] Yang.

And, it doesn't have quite the same vibrant colors as the original. The next goal for this technology, though, is to scale up the process so it can be used to create high-resolution art works that never fade or be used for anti-counterfeiting work, NanoWerk adds. 

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