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Holographic images brought to life with device created from silicon pillars

Complex holographic images akin to those seen in sci-fi films such as Star Wars can now be produced thanks to a tiny device created by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU).

The team believes the technology produces the highest quality holographic images ever realised, opening the door to imaging technologies previously only seen in works of fiction.

Holograms rely on highly complex light manipulations as they store a full reproduction of all information carried by light in 3D. In contrast, standard photographs and computer monitors capture and display only a portion of 2D information.

Co-lead researcher Dr Sergey Kruk said the device consisted of millions of tiny silicon pillars, each up to 500 times thinner than a human hair. The ANU team has led the design, fabrication and optical testing of the device

“This new material is transparent, which means it loses minimal energy from the light, and it also does complex manipulations with light,” Kruk said.

“Our ability to structure materials at the nanoscale allows the device to achieve new optical properties that go beyond the properties of natural materials. The holograms that we made demonstrate the strong potential of this technology to be used in a range of applications.”

Lead researcher Lei Wang (above) explained that the device uses light on the infrared spectrum to project the holographic images and wants to work with industry to develop the technology further.

“As a child, I learned about the concept of holographic imaging from the Star Wars movies. It’s really cool to be working on an invention that uses the principles of holography depicted in those movies,” he said.

“While research in holography plays an important role in the development of futuristic displays and augmented reality devices, today we are working on many other applications such as ultra-thin and light-weight optical devices for cameras and satellites.”

Wang said the device could replace bulky components to miniaturise cameras and save costs in astronomical missions by reducing the size and weight of optical systems on space craft.

Engineers working for the BBC created a simple holographic TV  last year to test how audiences would engage with content produced in the format.

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