Caltech scientists create world’s smallest Mona Lisa

Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have likely created the world’s smallest Mona Lisa.

Their incredibly tiny version of the famous portrait was made using self-assembling DNA structures and expands on the technique known as DNA origami, which makes it possible to fold strands into specific shapes.

DNA origami has well-served the nanotechnology field, allowing for a significant size reduction in programmable materials, but it has its limits. 

The Caltech researchers sought a way to offer more robust option and found a solution in, as a Caltech release notes, DNAorigami that “self-assembles into large arrays with entirely customizable patterns, creating a sort of canvas that can display any image.”

“The Caltech team developed software that can take an image such as the Mona Lisa, divide it up into small square sections, and determine the DNA sequences needed to make up those squares,” the release further explained. “Next, their challenge was to get those sections to self-assemble into a superstructure that recreates the Mona Lisa.” 

They found an efficient and economical solution in creating a limited number of edge shapes and assembling “the tiles in stages, like assembling small regions of a puzzle and then assembling those to make larger regions before finally putting the larger regions together to make the completed puzzle.”  

The team ended up with a structure that’s 64 times the size of the original DNA origami assembly and one very, very small Mona Lisa.

RELATED: The Mona Lisa and the Louvre

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The Mona Lisa and the Louvre
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The Mona Lisa and the Louvre
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 28: Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci 'Mona Lisa' inside the Louvre museum on February 28, 2014 in Paris, France. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, one of the world's largest museums which opened 1793. (Photo by Christian Marquardt/Getty Images)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Front) and his wife Akie (3rd R) look at 'La Joconde', a 1503-1506 oil on wood portrait of Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 4, 2014. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in France Sunday on the latest leg of a six-nation European tour for trade and security talks at a time of mounting tensions with China. Abe arrived in the French capital on Sunday afternoon and immediately left for a private visit to the Louvre that included stops at the museum's best known works, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
The Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, where famous sculptures and paintings like Mona Lisa are displayed. (Photo by Jayakumar Radhakrishnan via Getty Images)
Alessandro Vezzosi, the director of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Vinci, presents a painting unveiled by the Mona Lisa Foundation on September 27, 2012 in Geneva. The Swiss foundation claims the painting is an earlier version of the 'Mona Lisa' painted by Leonardo da Vinci, although some experts said the claim was unlikely. The Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation presented what it described as a 'stunning portrait of Lisa del Giocondo,' along with results from 35 years of research and scientific tests which it claimed proved it was the work of da Vinci and had been completed about 10 years before its famous sister in the Louvre. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
Picture of a TV screen showing scientific tests made on 'Isleworth Mona Lisa' (L) and the Louvre Museum da Vinci's masterpiece taken during the unveiling by the Mona Lisa Foundation on September 27, 2012 in Geneva of what the foundation claims is an earlier version of the 'Mona Lisa' painted by Leonardo da Vinci, although some experts said the claim was unlikely. The Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation presented what it described as a 'stunning portrait of Lisa del Giocondo,' along with results from 35 years of research and scientific tests which it claimed proved it was the work of da Vinci and had been completed about 10 years before its famous sister in the Louvre. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages)
Paris, France - February 19, 2014: Beautiful view of the Louvre museum in Paris, France, on February 19, 2014
Paris, France - June 18, 2014: Louvre museum at dusk on June 18, 2014 in Paris. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in France displayed over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space.
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