A team of researchers has printed an image so tiny that it would fit on a cross-section of human hair.
Scientists at Swiss university ETH Zurich took it upon themselves to print the tiny image of clownfishes swimming around an anemone at a size of just 80-by-115 micrometers. The nanotechnologists used miniscule particles known as quantum dots to print the image, writes Devin Coldewey for NBC.
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New technology could revolutionize optics and electronics
Quantum dots are tiny particles that emit light of different colors depending on how large they are. Blue light is emitted by smaller dots, and red light by larger ones. Those in between are green or a blended shade.
The printed image has a resolution of 25,000 dots per inch as there are just 500 nanometers between each dot. The photo is now officially the smallest printed image in the world after Guinness verified the size.
It might seem a bit counterproductive to print a photo so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye, but quantum dots could prove revolutionary. They have also been used by researchers to build smaller spectrometers that could fit into a smartphone.
Spectrometers are used in almost every branch of technology, dissecting light into its component wavelengths to determine color very precisely. They are used to analyze the chemical properties of planets, or examine crime scenes.
Image provides further evidence of encouraging research in the field
Now researchers have turned an ordinary image sensor into a spectrometer using quantum dots. By coating the image sensor with quantum dots the team found that incoming light is automatically sorted into narrow sections of the spectrum.
Given the low cost of the process we could see ordinary cameras turned into spectrometers, but research is at an early stage. Quantum dot technology could also be used in electronics and optics in the future, including in displays.
For now anyone who wants to see the technology first hand can order a micro-image of their choosing as part of a Kickstarter campaign run by the scientists behind the record-holding print job. You have until January 9 to order your print, which comes with a tiny microscope so you can actually see the photo!