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Spring-Loaded MEMS-Driven Pixels Could Enable 3-D Holographic Video Displays

• Clay Dillow via

Holographic video is sort of the holy grail of video display technology right now. Stereoscopic 3-D is fine and everything, but it basically works by tricking the brain into seeing that 3-D depth via two offset 2-D images--hence the occasional headaches associated with current commercial 3-D displays. Holographic video, by contrast, creates images that are really three-dimensional, no glasses or headaches required. And while high-quality holographic vid is still out of reach, researchers in Belgium think they can get us there via tiny MEMS-driven spring-loaded pixels.

There’s a quality explanation of how this would work in the video below, but briefly: researchers at Belgian firm Imec have already created a MEMS-free chip (MEMS stands for microelectrical mechanical systems; think very, very small machines) that provides a very clear holographic rendering of the company’s headquarters. They do this by taking a silicon wafer and growing a layer of silicon dioxide onto it. They then etch small square patches of the silicon dioxide away, creating a carefully designed grid of pixels that are roughly 150 nanometers shallower than the surrounding silicon dioxide layer.

After topping that entire grid with a fine layer of reflective aluminum, they shine laser light onto the pixels at an angle, and the varying ways this light diffracts from the uneven surface they’ve created cause the light to interfere with itself both constructively and destructively. Long story short, if the pixels have been precisely etched a 3-D holographic still image emerges.

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