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Holography is a technique that enables a wavefront to be recorded and later re-constructed. Holography is best known as a method of generating real three-dimensional images, but it also has a wide range of other applications. In principle, it is possible to make a hologram for any type of wave.


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A hologram is made by superimposing a second wavefront (normally called the reference beam) on the wavefront of interest, thereby generating an interference pattern which is recorded on a physical medium. When only the second wavefront illuminates the interference pattern, it is diffracted to recreate the original wavefront. Holograms can also be computer-generated by modelling the two wavefronts and adding them together digitally. The resulting digital image is then printed onto a suitable mask or film and illuminated by a suitable source to reconstruct the wavefront of interest.

A hologram is a recording of an interference pattern which can reproduce a 3D light field using diffraction. The reproduced light field can generate an image which still has the depth, parallax, and other properties of the original scene.[5] A hologram is a photographic recording of a light field, rather than an image formed by a lens. The holographic medium, for example the object produced by a holographic process (which may be referred to as a hologram) is usually unintelligible when viewed under diffuse ambient light. It is an encoding of the light field as an interference pattern of variations in the opacity, density, or surface profile of the photographic medium. When suitably lit, the interference pattern diffracts the light into an accurate reproduction of the original light field, and the objects that were in it exhibit visual depth cues such as parallax and perspective that change realistically with the different angles of viewing. That is, the view of the image from different angles represents the subject viewed from similar angles. In this sense, holograms do not have just the illusion of depth but are truly three-dimensional images.

The development of the laser enabled the first practical optical holograms that recorded 3D objects to be made in 1962 by Yuri Denisyuk in the Soviet Union[6] and by Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks at the University of Michigan, USA.[7] Early holograms used silver halide photographic emulsions as the recording medium. They were not very efficient as the produced grating absorbed much of the incident light. Various methods of converting the variation in transmission to a variation in refractive index (known as "bleaching") were developed which enabled much more efficient holograms to be produced.[8][9][10]

Optical holography needs a laser light to record the light field. In its early days, holography required high-power and expensive lasers, but currently, mass-produced low-cost laser diodes, such as those found on DVD recorders and used in other common applications, can be used to make holograms and have made holography much more accessible to low-budget researchers, artists and dedicated hobbyists. A microscopic level of detail throughout the recorded scene can be reproduced. The 3D image can, however, be viewed with non-laser light. In common practice, however, major image quality compromises are made to remove the need for laser illumination to view the hologram, and in some cases, to make it. Holographic portraiture often resorts to a non-holographic intermediate imaging procedure, to avoid the dangerous high-powered pulsed lasers which would be needed to optically "freeze" moving subjects as perfectly as the extremely motion-intolerant holographic recording process requires. Holograms can now also be entirely computer-generated to show objects or scenes that never existed. Most holograms produced are of static objects but systems for displaying changing scenes on a holographic volumetric display are now being developed.[11][12][13]

In laser holography, the hologram is recorded using a source of laser light, which is very pure in its color and orderly in its composition. Various setups may be used, and several types of holograms can be made, but all involve the interaction of light coming from different directions and producing a microscopic interference pattern which a plate, film, or other medium photographically records.

Like conventional photography, holography requires an appropriate exposure time to correctly affect the recording medium. Unlike conventional photography, during the exposure the light source, the optical elements, the recording medium, and the subject must all remain motionless relative to each other, to within about a quarter of the wavelength of the light, or the interference pattern will be blurred and the hologram spoiled. With living subjects and some unstable materials, that is only possible if a very intense and extremely brief pulse of laser light is used, a hazardous procedure which is rarely done outside of scientific and industrial laboratory settings. Exposures lasting several seconds to several minutes, using a much lower-powered continuously operating laser, are typical.

A hologram can be made by shining part of the light beam directly into the recording medium, and the other part onto the object in such a way that some of the scattered light falls onto the recording medium. A more flexible arrangement for recording a hologram requires the laser beam to be aimed through a series of elements that change it in different ways. The first element is a beam splitter that divides the beam into two identical beams, each aimed in different directions:

Several different materials can be used as the recording medium. One of the most common is a film very similar to photographic film (silver halide photographic emulsion), but with much smaller light-reactive grains (preferably with diameters less than 20 nm), making it capable of the much higher resolution that holograms require. A layer of this recording medium (e.g., silver halide) is attached to a transparent substrate, which is commonly glass, but may also be plastic.

This missing key is provided later by shining a laser, identical to the one used to record the hologram, onto the developed film. When this beam illuminates the hologram, it is diffracted by the hologram's surface pattern. This produces a light field identical to the one originally produced by the scene and scattered onto the hologram.

A simple hologram can be made by superimposing two plane waves from the same light source on a holographic recording medium. The two waves interfere, giving a straight-line fringe pattern whose intensity varies sinusoidally across the medium. The spacing of the fringe pattern is determined by the angle between the two waves, and by the wavelength of the light.

To record a hologram of a complex object, a laser beam is first split into two beams of light. One beam illuminates the object, which then scatters light onto the recording medium. According to diffraction theory, each point in the object acts as a point source of light so the recording medium can be considered to be illuminated by a set of point sources located at varying distances from the medium.

When the hologram is illuminated by the original reference beam, each of the individual zone plates reconstructs the object wave that produced it, and these individual wavefronts are combined to reconstruct the whole of the object beam. The viewer perceives a wavefront that is identical with the wavefront scattered from the object onto the recording medium, so that it appears that the object is still in place even if it has been removed.

Salvador Dalí claimed to have been the first to employ holography artistically. He was certainly the first and best-known surrealist to do so, but the 1972 New York exhibit of Dalí holograms had been preceded by the holographic art exhibition that was held at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1968 and by the one at the Finch College gallery in New York in 1970, which attracted national media attention.[16] In Great Britain, Margaret Benyon began using holography as an artistic medium in the late 1960s and had a solo exhibition at the University of Nottingham art gallery in 1969.[17] This was followed in 1970 by a solo show at the Lisson Gallery in London, which was billed as the "first London expo of holograms and stereoscopic paintings".[18]

While many holographic data storage models have used "page-based" storage, where each recorded hologram holds a large amount of data, more recent research into using submicrometre-sized "microholograms" has resulted in several potential 3D optical data storage solutions. While this approach to data storage can not attain the high data rates of page-based storage, the tolerances, technological hurdles, and cost of producing a commercial product are significantly lower.

There also exist holographic materials that do not need the developing process and can record a hologram in a very short time. This allows one to use holography to perform some simple operations in an all-optical way. Examples of applications of such real-time holograms include phase-conjugate mirrors ("time-reversal" of light), optical cache memories, image processing (pattern recognition of time-varying images), and optical computing.

The amount of processed information can be very high (terabits/s), since the operation is performed in parallel on a whole image. This compensates for the fact that the recording time, which is in the order of a microsecond, is still very long compared to the processing time of an electronic computer. The optical processing performed by a dynamic hologram is also much less flexible than electronic processing. On one side, one has to perform the operation always on the whole image, and on the other side, the operation a hologram can perform is basically either a multiplication or a phase conjugation. In optics, addition and Fourier transform are already easily performed in linear materials, the latter simply by a lens. This enables some applications, such as a device that compares images in an optical way.[26] 041b061a72

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