Sergey Kruk and a team of researchers have developed a device to improve the quality of holograms. Credit: The Australian National University

A novel device may lead to a new era of holographic images.

Physicists from the Australian National University have created a tiny, new device that may generate the highest quality holographic images ever produced and could lead to imaging technologies, similar to those seen in science fiction movies like Star Wars.

Lei Wang, a Ph.D. student and the lead researcher from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering, said infrared was used to create the complex holographic images.

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

Holograms perform the most complex manipulations of light and enable the storing and reproduction of all information carried by light in 3-D, while standard photographs and computer monitors capture and display only a portion of 2-D information.

“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.

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

Sergey Kruk, Ph.D., professor at the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering and co-lead researcher on the study, said the device consisted of millions of tiny silicon pillars, with each being up to 500 times thinner than a human hair.

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

Part of the research was conducted in collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States and Nanjing University in China.

The study was published in The Optical Society.