Ars Technica has a piece on a new polymer-based material that significantly speeds up the process of making holograms, developed by researchers at the University of Tuscon. Their results are being published in the current issue of Nature.
The new material is comprised of photorefractive polymers. These chemicals have photoelectric properties that make them well-suited to storing the optical interference patterns used to produce holograms. When a photorefractive polymer is exposed to a pattern of bright and dark areas, electrons are released from the areas exposed to high-intensity light and migrate to areas that are darker. Once in place, the electron-rich areas diffract light differently from the electron-poor ones, allowing the original interference pattern to be reproduced when the material is exposed to light.
The paper describes using the new device for two different types of holograms. One is simply the storage of a three dimensional image produced by traditional holographic methods. The second, holographic stereography, reveals the technique's full potential. In this case, stacks of two-dimensional image data, such as those produced by MRIs, CAT scans, and topographical data, can be encoded into the photorefractive material material in such a way that the human visual system can interpret the resulting hologram as a full, three dimensional reconstruction.
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