A few months ago, a “hologram” Tupac joined Snoop Dogg on stage and excited the world about the potential for holograms to resurrect dead celebrities. There was only one problem: it wasn’t a hologram, and it wasn’t three-dimensional. That’s because most modern holograms don’t provide the resolution needed to deliver a convincing person. Nanotechnology may hold the answer to higher-resolution holograms: a team from the University of Cambridge have used carbon nanotubes as nanometer-wide pixels,making them the smallest ever scattering elements.
The team from the Centre of Molecular Materials for Photonics and Electrics used the tubes to create a static holographic projection of the word CAMBRIDGE. Carbon nanotubes–made by rolling sheets of carbon into cylinders–are a material which a lot of industrial hopes have been pinned on in the past. But in this case, the nanotubes are already the smallest pixels ever used to create a hologram. Smaller pixels obviously improve the image quality and resolution, but the also allow for light diffraction at larger angles, which means that holograms would have a larger field of view.
Currently, the nanotube-based pixels can only project static images: the word CAMBRIDGE doesn’t move. So this means we’re still a bit away from a nanotube-based Tupac hologram. But this is an important breakthrough, and it’s the first step towards sharp holographic video.