UA hologram find may have medical applications
UA hologram find may have medical applications
Savas Tay’s research is a 4- by 4-inch projected image, but his dream is much bigger.
Within 10 years, the University of Arizona scientist said, a doctor in Boston could participate in a surgery at University Medical Center courtesy of a life-size, updatable hologram beamed to the doctor’s office from Tucson.
Tay and UA optical sciences professor Nasser Peyghambarian broke a technological barrier by developing the first holographic display that can be erased and rewritten in the time it takes to microwave popcorn.
Their research, funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, was published in the Feb. 7 issue of the journal Nature. Peyghambarian said UA hopes for continued funding through the Air Force to expand the project. It has provided about $600,000.
Holography has been around for decades, but the UA discovery allows for advances in “situational awareness” because the holograms are not permanent.
“Imagine that you have a $50,000 machine that can take one image and display that one image,” Tay said. “With our system, you can create a new image every couple of minutes” so a viewer is kept updated on changes almost as they happen.
When a doctor uses a magnetic resonance imaging machine for a brain scan before surgery, that three-dimensional information has to be viewed on a two-dimensional device such as a computer screen.
“A huge amount of data is lost in 2-D,” Tay said. “A doctor could actually see the brain in 3-D as he’s working, and then, as things change, the image is updated; (that) is the dynamic potential.”
The financial aspects of the discovery are attractive and the medical applications life-saving, but Tay said his erasable holographic displays also have important military applications. That is why the Air Force approached UA.
“Various funding agencies have certain needs and they come to us and ask if we think we can make these things, and that is what happened in this case,” Tay said.
UA discovery has military aspects. See story on Page 4A. additional information
To see a video of the holographic display described in this article, go to this Web site and click on “video.”
Air Force backing UA’s hologram development
The U.S. Air Force approached University of Arizona scientists in 2006 with a need, essentially, to make science fiction a reality.
This week, with an article in the journal Nature, the scientists reported that they’ve been able to do just that.
Postdoctoral research fellow Savas Tay and optical sciences professor Nasser Peyghambarian created three-dimensional holographic displays that can be erased and rewritten in about three minutes.
Until now, the technology has been limited primarily to permanent holograms on such things as credit cards and films that appear to be 3-D when special glasses are worn to aid the illusion.
Active holographic displays, however, can be made into devices that show military fighter pilots hazards within their surrounding airspace, or allow generals at the Pentagon to view a battlefield overseas as though they were there.
The Air Force has used holographic displays, but the images have been static, not allowing for updating with new images, Peyghambarian said.
“You can look at it like this: Princess Leia appears in thin air out of nowhere and then you can erase her and bring in Luke Skywalker,” he said.
Or, Tay explained, a general wants to view an entire battlefield in a short time and tanks and planes are moving throughout that field.
“For him to make the decisions, he wants to see images that reflect where the tanks and planes move as he’s watching the (holographic) display,” Tay said.
The UA device consists of a special plastic film – a photorefractive polymer – sandwiched between two pieces of glass. Each piece of glass is coated with a transparent electrode and images are “written” into the polymer using laser beams and an externally applied electric field.
To get the holograph, Tay takes pictures of objects from different angles as he scans it and the holographic display assembles the two-dimensional perspective into a three-dimensional projection.
The Air Force offered a $600,000 grant for the development of the technology, which for now can only be projected in a 16-square-inch area in two colors.
Peyghambarian said the display will be developed into full color within the year and full-sized relative to the object being photographed within five years.
“The real advantage of 3-D is when it is the same size of the actual object,” Tay said. “That is when you see dynamic application.”
Air Force officials could not be reached for comment Friday. additional information
Online link to examples of holographic images and videos of the UA display: