A holographic display for pilots

Published: Saturday 15 March 2008

No sci-fi this: Model for tomo during landing and taking-off, a pilot usually has to manage the controls, while simultaneously keeping an eye on the runway. It would make things much easier for a pilot if she/he could do both the tasks by just looking at the runway. A new holographic display placed between the field of view and the pilot could help solve the problem.

The low-cost hologram can quickly record images and display them over a longer time than the current technology. The device will be useful in areas that require an image to be updated fast, says Savas Tay of the University of Arizona and collaborators who developed the hologram.

Several types of holograms exist, the most common being those that appear as a safety feature on credit cards and product packaging. While most of these images are permanently imprinted, there are some holograms that can be erased and rewritten. Tay's hologram is an improved version of the latter. The study was published in the February issue of Nature (Vol 451, No 7179).

The new holographic material is a special kind of plastic film that is highly sensitive to light. The researchers used a laser to record the hologram. The laser beam was split into two: one beam was directed towards the object and the other towards the material. The first beam, as it scatters off the object, gathers information about its shape and appearance. It is then reflected towards the material where it interacts with the beam to modify the material's structure, thus imprinting the holographic pattern.

Designed in a 10 cm square shape, the hologram is the largest such display till date. It can record images within a few minutes and viewed for several hours after the recording beams are removed. The scientists say that low costs in designing this material as compared to other holographic substances imply that larger displays can be economically produced.

It can also be used in the medical field. A holographic image of an organ can be recorded and sent to other doctors for analysis, says J Joseph, an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. "The original sample need not be there to see the various effects," he says.

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