Holograms get real-time boost

Three-dimensional holographic displays could soon be possible thanks to a new type of pixel element developed by University of Cambridge Researchers. The research team demonstrated the element that delivers greater control over displays at the level of individual pixels which will open up a new host of possibilities for holograms. The results were recently published in the journal Physica Status Solidi.

Researchers explain that holograms are created when light bounces off a sheet of material with grooves placed in such a way that will project the image away from the surface to deliver the visual impression that an object is directly in front of them.

Development is currently limited by technology that can allow the control of all the properties of light at the level of individual pixels.

Calum Williams, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, says: “In a typical liquid crystal on silicon display, the pixels’ electronics or backplane, provides little optical functionality other than reflecting light. This means that a large amount of surface area is being underutilised, which could be used to store information.”

The new technique developed by Williams and his team uses plasmonics (the study of how light interacts with metals on a nanoscale) to deliver a greater level of control over holograms.

Devices which use plasmonic optical antennas are usually passive and their optical properties cannot be switched post-fabrication. Through interaction with liquid crystals the researchers were able to actively switch which hologram is exited and therefore which output image is selected.