Nanoprinted Monet Masterpiece Bears an Unsettling Resemblance to the Original

In the near future, forged paintings may be created using metal nanodisks, as exemplified by researchers at Singapore’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering.

The researchers responsible for the nanoprinted reproduction of Monet’s “Impression. Sunrise” definitely made this experiment in good faith, but chances are they might inspire criminal minds to use a similar method to make forged paintings. To be frank, the technology used in this reproduction is not easy to stumble upon, but with the right connections and money, anything is possible. Back to the nanoprinted Monet painting made by the Singaporean researchers, though, their reproduction is scarily similar to the real one.

Joel K.W. Yang, an assistant professor at Singapore’s University of Technology and Design, and one of the researchers behind this project, explained that “Each color pixel on this image was mapped to the closest color from a palette that we created using arrays of metal nanodisks, and the code spits out a series of geometries corresponding to this color. In principle we can create as many as we want as the sizes of the disks that determine the colors can be tuned continuously.”

Of course, since it’s a nanoprinted painting that we’re talking about, the resulting reproduction is minuscule. More precisely, it measures approximately 300 microns across, and was printed at a resolution of 30,000 dots per inch. Compared to regular consumer desktop printers, that’s a ridiculously high pixel density.

Just to give you an idea about how tiny the painting is, Yang said that “A single drop of dye from a typical printer, would already be about the size of the entire print made with our technology.”

Yang and his fellow researchers want to expand the capabilities of this technology, so for the time being, it will definitely not leave the lab. Using metal is better than ink, as it doesn’t fade away. On top of that, metal nanodisks permit much higher resolutions. To be frank, the colors of the nanoprinted reproduction are a bit off, but if tweaked a bit, the results could be even more satisfying. Yang is also considering that other people could have new ideas that could be implemented with the help of this nanotechnology: “I’m hoping also that others would see this as an enabler for applications that we haven’t even thought possible.”

I’m really curious to see where all these painting reproductions created with innovative technologies are headed.

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