The fuzzy three-dimensional (3D) image of Princess Leia calling for help in the 1977 film Star Wars demonstrates an effect that researchers have long been trying to achieve: holograms that move in real time. Now, a material that can store shifting holographic data moves the fantasy into the realms of reality. The substance could have future applications in medicine and manufacturing, as well as in the entertainment industry.
“From day one, I thought about the hologram of Princess Leia and whether it can be brought out of science fiction,” says Nasser Peyghambarian, an optical scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who has been trying for several years to develop holographic projections that move in real time. The challenge was to find a rewritable material that could store data encoding successive holographic images. Now Peyghambarian and his colleagues have developed a material that can record and display 3D images that refresh every two seconds. The research is published in Nature this week.