The enigmatic image is perhaps the most reproduced in art history, but it's never before been painted on such a small canvas.
Using a novel nanotechnique, researchers have made a miniature Mona Lisa that stretches 30 microns across, just a third of the width of a human hair.
A team from Georgia Tech created the molecular masterpiece using an atomic force microscope and a process dubbed ThermoChemical NanoLithography, or TCNL for short.
Each 125-nanometer pixel of the "Mini Lisa" represents a confined set of chemical reactions. The technique allowed the researchers to control the amount of heat applied over each pixel to vary the number of new molecules created in each spot. More heat resulted in more molecules and lighter shades of gray. In this way, the team made the tiny copy of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous work, pixel by pixel.
The microscopic art is essentially a demonstration of TCNL's ability to make variations in molecular concentrations on this extremely small scale, and the researchers think this technique could have applications for nanoscale manufacturing.