Smartphone cameras of the not-too-distant future could be so tiny they are near invisible, yet able to produce images in incredible detail and in three dimensions.
It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of physicists at the Australian National University (ANU) believe they are on the verge of making it a reality.
The scientists have been able to create high-quality holographic images using a material they invented made from millions of tiny silicon pillars, each one 500 times thinner than a human hair.
Lead researcher on the project Sergey Kruk said each pillar captured all the detail of light directed at it and could then reproduce it in 3D.
“If you compare that to conventional pictures or computer monitors … those produce only a portion of the information of light, basically just the intensity of light and in two dimensions only,” Dr Kruk said.
Star Wars-inspired technology
Co-lead researcher and PhD student Lei Wang said it was helping to bring what was once a fantasy to life.
“As a child I learned about the concept of holographic imaging from the Star Wars movies,” Mr Wang said.
“It’s really cool to be working on an invention that uses the principles of holography depicted in those movies.”
Giant leap for cameras
Dr Kruk said their invention was a major improvement on traditional camera and holographic technology.
“Conventional optical components like lenses and prisms … are bulky and heavyweight,” Dr Kruk said.
“To make these components we use technologies that haven’t changed for centuries.
“But with our new material we can create components with the same functionality but that would be essentially flat and lightweight.”
He said he believed the possibilities could be endless.
“Starting from further shrinking down the sizes of cameras in consumer smart phones and all the way up to space technologies by reducing the size and weight of complex optical systems for satellites,” Dr Kruk said.
The team’s achievements have been published in the science journal Optica and was partly done in collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United Sates and Nanjing University in China.