Scientists at the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge have demonstrated a new use for carbon nanotubes (CNTs). By harnessing the conductive and light scattering abilities of these nanoscopic pixels they have projected a static hologram of the word ‘CAMBRIDGE’.
Carbon nanotubes are a mind-boggling one billionth of a metre wide consisting of cylindrical sheets of carbon atoms. They are therefore the smallest light scattering elements we have at our fingertips. The multi-walled nanotubes used in this study were grown on silicon and are 700 times thinner than a strand of hair.
The researchers in this study, published in the journal Advanced Materials, managed to calculate the exact placement of each nanotube in order to create a pattern that would display the name of their university. They are confident that these results will forge a path for the use of nanostructures in 3D holograms to produce exceptionally high-resolution images with a wide field of view.
Holographic displays are predicted to be the future of many technologies including 3D televisions, however if we’re to use high resolution CNTs for the job then several challenges still lie ahead. Firstly, CNTs are very expensive, therefore the potential of alternative materials such as zinc oxide nanowires, need to be explored, and secondly these tiny pixels have only yet been able to produce static images.
The team in Cambridge aim to investigate combining their tiny pixels with liquid crystals with the hope of creating moving pictures.
Written by Nicola Hodson.