The science of holography has taken a big leap forward thanks to tiny carbon nanotubes. Scientists at Cambridge University have used carbon nanotubes to generate the smallest hologram pixels ever created. The small size is key, because the smaller the pixel, the higher the resolution of the hologram and the wider the field of view.
The scientists used carbon nanotubes some 700 times thinner than the average human hair as diffractive elements that projected the individual pixels that made up the hologram. With pixels prearranged the right way, they acted like tiny pixel "projectors" to spell out the name "Cambridge" using various colors of laser light.
In a press release, Dr. Haider Butt, a researcher at Cambridge's Centre of Molecular Materials for Photonics and Electronics explained why the small pixels are important:
"Smaller pixels allow the diffraction of light at larger angles — increasing the field of view. Essentially, the smaller the pixel, the higher the resolution of the hologram."
Sure, spelling out a static image of "Cambridge" isn't in the same league as "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope." But not to worry — Butt and his fellow scientists want holographic communication as much as we do.
In fact, researchers at the University of Arizona have already used an optical material to display a form of holographic video — however briefly. Researchers at MIT are also working in the field. Butt believes his research will head in that direction as well, and is hoping for different and cheaper nanomaterials to work with:
"A new class of highly sensitive holographic sensors can be developed that could sense distance, motion, tilt, temperature and density of biological materials. What's certain is that these results pave the way towards utilizing nanostructures to producing 3D holograms with wide field of view and the very highest resolution."
While scientists are on the hunt for new and cheaper nanomaterials, the breakthrough knowledge of using tiny pixels could point to how the process could be translated to creating stable high resolution moving holograms.
Dr. Haider Butt and the Cambridge's Centre of Molecular Materials for Photonics and Electronics research has been published in the journal Advanced Materials.