World's thinnest hologram unveiled by Chinese-Australian research team

"Integrating holography into everyday electronics would make screen size irrelevant," said researcher Min Gu.
By Brooks Hays   |   May 18, 2017 at 12:11 PM

May 18 (UPI) -- A team of scientists from China and Australia have created the world's thinnest hologram. Researchers say their technology could be integrated into a variety of devices, including smartphones, laptops and televisions.

Size is key in modern electronics. If technology is to be integrated into 21st century devices, it must be small. But until now, scientists have struggled to sufficiently shrink holographic technology.

"Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers," Min Gu, a professor of optoelectronics at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said in a news release.

The hologram created by Gu and his colleagues is just a few hundred nanometers thick, 1,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. The hologram was carved by a laser, a technique researchers say is efficient and scalable.

In order to generate 3D images, most holograms must be thick enough to manipulate optical wavelengths.

Working with scientists at the Beijing Institute of Technology, Gu and his partners developed a work-around. Researchers discovered that a unique topological insulator material, an ultra-thin, layered film, acts as a natural optical resonator and enhances the phase shifts of the refracted light waves -- thus, producing a holographic image.

Researchers described their breakthrough in the journal Nature Communications.

"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," Gu said. "From medical diagnostics to education, data storage, defense and cyber security, 3D holography has the potential to transform a range of industries and this research brings that revolution one critical step closer."

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