Australian Scientists Just Made The World's Thinnest Hologram

Image: Gizmodo

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday electronics like smart phones, computers and TVs.

Interactive 3D holograms are a staple of science fiction – from Star Wars to Halo­­ (all the space things, really) - but the challenge for scientists trying to turn them into reality is developing holograms that are thin enough to work with modern electronics.

Now a pioneering team led by RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Min Gu has designed a nano-hologram that is simple to make, can be seen without 3D goggles and is 1000 times thinner than a human hair.

"Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers," Gu said. "Our nano-hologram is also fabricated using a simple and fast direct laser writing system, which makes our design suitable for large-scale uses and mass manufacture."

Gu says integrating holography into everyday electronics would make screen size irrelevant – since 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," says Gu.

Conventional holograms modulate the phase of light to give the illusion of three-dimensional depth. But to generate enough phase shifts, those holograms need to be at the thickness of optical wavelengths.

The RMIT research team, working with the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), has broken this thickness limit with a 25 nanometre hologram based on a topological insulator material – a novel quantum material that holds the low refractive index in the surface layer but the ultrahigh refractive index in the bulk. The topological insulator thin film acts as an intrinsic optical resonant cavity, which can enhance the phase shifts for holographic imaging.

Dr Zengyi Yue, who co-authored the paper with BIT’s Gaolei Xue, said the next stage for this research will be developing a rigid thin film that could be laid onto an LCD screen to enable 3D holographic display. This involves shrinking othe nano-hologram's pixel size, making it at least 10 times smaller.

"But beyond that, we are looking to create flexible and elastic thin films that could be used on a whole range of surfaces, opening up the horizons of holographic applications," says Yue.



    Wait what!? I don't get it. The video is nothing more the a 'utopia' style government video that shows buzz words and CG footage of "the future".

    I thought a hologram (as the star wars images shows) is the ability to produce an image from thin air without needing a screen.
    What I understand here is that they've made a thin human hair hologram but no one can see it because they haven't made anything to view it with?

      Yep, the video is all we have - and is supplementary to the article itself. A bit of a TL:DR for those who skim the article and just want to know the basics, provided by the researchers. Trust me, as soon as we get eyes on this, I'll have pictures everywhere!

      Yeah I always think of a hologram as a 3d projection that I could literally walk around and view from any angle. If they're talking about a film surely that's not a projection but just a new type of screen?

    There's not enough info here. If they're making a film, that implies some sort of 3D screen as opposed to holograms, right?

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