Scientists reveal the world’s thinnest hologram that emerges from your phone

The day when holograms can pop out of electronic devices like smart phones, computers and TVs has moved a step closer thanks to the creation of the world’s thinnest hologram.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, an Australian-Chinese research team led by professor Min Gu of RMIT University revealed a nano-hologram that is simple to make, can be seen without 3D goggles and is 1000 times thinner than a human hair.

Interactive 3D holograms have been often seen in science fiction and RMIT University’s version would look similar to the hologram that shoots out of R2-D2 as he delivers Princess Leia’s message in Star Wars: Episode IV.

“Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers,” Gu said.

“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.”

Conventional holograms work by modulating phases 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.

However, The RMIT research team, broke this thickness limit by using a 25 nanometre hologram based on a topological insulator material.

The result is a hologram that is capable of leaping from devices’ screens regardless of their size.

“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,” said Gu.

Images and video courtesy of RMIT University

Next, the research team hopes to shrink the hologram’s pixel sixe as well as making the hologram work on different surfaces.

“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,” said the paper’s co author Dr Zengyi Yue.

“This involves shrinking our 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.”

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