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article imageUltra-thin hologram promises 3D electronics

By Tim Sandle     Aug 10, 2017 in Technology
Melbourne - An Australian-Chinese research team has made a claim for the world's thinnest hologram. The development promises a 3D holography integrated into a new generation of everyday electronic devices.
For technology companies looking for the next big product launch then 3D holography could be the answer. Instead of two dimensional video conferencing via a smartphone or tablet, imagine being able to carry this out in three dimensions? This would make things like exhibiting new products from afar much easier, whether this is a new tablet or an architectural concept design for a bridge. These types of developments are discussed in more general terms in the our article “Will holograms become standard for electronic devices?
The advances in holography have come from Melbourne's RMIT University together with technologists based at Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT). The research teams have developed what is being heralded as the world's thinnest hologram.
Light dispersion of a mercury-vapor lamp with a prism made of flint glass.
Light dispersion of a mercury-vapor lamp with a prism made of flint glass.
D-Kuru (CC BY-SA 3.0 AT)
The limitation with current holograms is that to modulate the phase of light to give the illusion of three-dimensional depth requires multiple phase shifts. To achieve this, holograms need to be at the thickness of optical wavelengths. This is too thick for standard portable electronics. The new development is a 25 nanometre hologram based on a topological insulator material (a novel quantum material that holds the low refractive index in the surface layer and offering an ultrahigh refractive index in the bulk). The topological insulator thin film functions as an built-in optical resonant cavity. Then purpose of this is to enhance the phase shifts for holographic imaging.
The reason why part of the quest to develop advanced holography has sought to go ‘ultra-thin’ is so that holographic projectors can be incorporated into devices approximately the same size as devices currently on the market. Most consumers are not keen on upscaling the size of their smartphone. With the size issue, lead researcher Professor Min Gu, from RMIT, told Zdnet: “Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers.”
To overcome the size issue, the research groups developed a remarkable nano-hologram (1,000 times thinner than a human hair). This was produced using a simple and fast direct laser writing system. The technique has been perfected so that the hologram is relatively easy to manufacture. More importantly, in terms of how technology designs progresses, the three-dimensional structure can be seen without the need for 3D goggles.
The technology is discussed in the following video:
The application of the technology offers a variety of possibilities, including business conferencing and everyday electronic items like smartphones, computers, and televisions. The application of holography is not just to add something cool to device. Integrating holography would make screen size irrelevant. A pop-up 3D hologram would be able to display a wealth of data that does not easily fit onto the display screen of a phone or watch.
Following this success, the next phase of the research is to produce a rigid thin film which can be laid onto an LCD screen to allow for the 3D holographic display. The new research has been published in the journal Nature Communications under the heading “Nanometric holograms based on a topological insulator material.”
If you found this article on ultrathin holograms of interest, please read our look at new stretchable holographic displays: “First stretchable holographic display revealed.”
More about Hologram, holograpry, Smartphone, 3D electronics
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