The University of Arizona Optics Department Pursues 3-D Television

The University of Arizona optics department has taken a tip from sci-fi movies and is developing a new holography technique that has the potential to create three-dimensional television images.
Pierre Alexandre Blanche is a research associate on the team that has developed the photorefractive polymer which is the foundation of the 3-D holograms they are producing. Once fully matured, the 3-D holograms will be applicable in many fields, namely in video rate displays and medical photography.

The polymer base the team has developed is currently capable of recording images with lasers, raising them with a six inch by six inch display and then refreshing the image to change it. In the past, holograms have been created with crystals that could only be grown to a few cubic centimeters. The research team is the first to develop the technology capable of rewriting holograms.

"It is (like) the CDRW of CD writing," said Cory Christenson, a physics graduate student who is working on the project. "We have on a computer, a set of perspectives that represent a 3-D object and we encode that info into laser beams and we shine that light onto the material."

Blanch said the photorefractive material has been 10 years in the making and is still very far away from the desired speed and size. The team began creating images two years ago and started with a half-inch by half-inch display. They hope to have a 1-foot by 1-foot display by the end of the year. It currently takes two minutes to write an image, which is about 120 times slower than they need, Blanche said. They hope to have the writing speed down to two seconds within five years and 30 hertz, video rate, within 10 years.

"The potential for having holographic display at video rate is here because we have the technology for making it," Blanche said.

Blanche said the polymer technology will not only be targeted toward making 3-D TV. Right now there is equipment in the medical field that produces three-dimensional images, but there is no way to display them, and the research team hopes holography will be the technology to do that, Blanche said.

By Nathan Mitchell, Arizona Daily Wildcat