An ultrathin display for holographic images consists of a thin film of titanium filled with tiny holes that precisely correspond with each pixel in a liquid crystal display (LCD) panel. This film acts as a “photon sieve” — each pinhole widely diffracts light emerging from them, resulting in a high-definition 3D image observable from a wide angle.

The entire system is very small; a 1.8" off-the-shelf LCD panel with a resolution of 1024 × 768. The titanium film, attached to the back of the panel, is 300 nanometers thick. The system could project holographic displays from thin devices like a cellphone.

Specifically, the images are made by pointing differently colored laser beams made of parallel light rays at the small LCD panel. The photon sieve has a hole for each pixel in the LCD panel. The holes are precisely positioned to correspond to the pixel’s active area. The pin-holes diffract the light emerging from them, producing 3D images.

Previous work used optical diffusors for the same purpose, but the size of the device was bulky and difficult to operate, and it took a long period of time to calibrate. In the present work, the photon sieve was tailored to demonstrate a simple, compact, and scalable method for 3D holographic display. This technique can be readily applied to existing LCD displays.

Applications for holograms have been limited by cumbersome techniques, high computation requirements, and poor image quality. Improving current techniques could lead to a wide variety of applications including 3D-movie viewing without the need for glasses, watching holographic videos on television, and smartphone screens.

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