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Nat Nanotechnol. 2012 Sep;7(9):557-61. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2012.128. Epub 2012 Aug 12.

Printing colour at the optical diffraction limit.

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Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, A*STAR, 3 Research Link, Singapore 117602.


The highest possible resolution for printed colour images is determined by the diffraction limit of visible light. To achieve this limit, individual colour elements (or pixels) with a pitch of 250 nm are required, translating into printed images at a resolution of ∼100,000 dots per inch (d.p.i.). However, methods for dispensing multiple colourants or fabricating structural colour through plasmonic structures have insufficient resolution and limited scalability. Here, we present a non-colourant method that achieves bright-field colour prints with resolutions up to the optical diffraction limit. Colour information is encoded in the dimensional parameters of metal nanostructures, so that tuning their plasmon resonance determines the colours of the individual pixels. Our colour-mapping strategy produces images with both sharp colour changes and fine tonal variations, is amenable to large-volume colour printing via nanoimprint lithography, and could be useful in making microimages for security, steganography, nanoscale optical filters and high-density spectrally encoded optical data storage.

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