Holograms have been a part of our imagination since the dawn of science fiction. But fiction is now starting to cross over into reality.
A team of scientists from RMIT University and the Beijing Institute of Technology have designed the 'world's thinnest' hologram. It is said the hologram is capable of being integrated into everyday products such as smartphones.
The work was led by RMIT's Min Gu led the project and claims the holographic technology can be seen without 3D goggles and is 1,000 times thinner than human hair. The academics dubbed the technology a 'nano hologram'.
At present, the constraints that hold back holographic technology lie in the limits of optical thickness. Regular holograms modulate light to project the illusion of a three-dimensional shape. But this needs to be within the parameters of the optimal thickness limit – computer-generated holograms are too large to fit atop smartphones and therefore have limited practical application.
Now, Min and the team behind the work has developed a 25 nanometer hologram using topological insulator material. It has a lower refractive index on the surface layer, but an ultrahigh refractive index in bulk. This thin insular film can enhance the holographic image without sacrificing its compact design.
Min says that the nano hologram is "fabricated using a simple and fast direct laser writing system, which makes our design suitable for large-scale uses and mass manufacture."
Theoretically, the technology may be able to fit inside smartphones and other devices but there is still work to be done. The next step is to shrink this technology even further, so that it can become suitable for integration upon LCD and smartphone screens, effectively producing a holographic device in your pocket.
The possibilities for portable holograms are appealing for a wide range of industries, Min says. "Integrating holography into everyday electronics would make screen size irrelevant – a pop-up 3D hologram can display a wealth of data that doesn’t neatly fit on a phone or watch.
"From medical diagnostics to education, data storage, defence and cyber security, 3D holography has the potential to transform a range of industries and this research brings that revolution one critical step closer."