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How Holograms Work

How Holograms Work

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Published by Redza
This article will explain how a hologram, light and your brain work together make clear, 3-D images.
This article will explain how a hologram, light and your brain work together make clear, 3-D images.

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Published by: Redza on May 24, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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How Holograms Work 
by Tracy V. Wilson
Browse the article
How Holograms Work
Image courtesyConsumer Guide Products
Mass-produced hologramsoften look more likegreen photographs than 3-D images.
Up Next
Introduction to How Holograms Work
If you want to see a hologram, you don't have to look much farther than your wallet. There are holograms on mostdriver's licenses, ID cards andcredit cards. If you're not old enough to drive or use credit, you can still findholograms around your home. They're part of CD,DVDand software packaging, as well as just about everything sold as "official merchandise."Unfortunately, these holograms -- which exist to make forgery more difficult --aren't very impressive. You can see changes in colors and shapes when youmove them back and forth, but they usually just look like sparkly pictures or smears of color. Even the mass-produced holograms that feature movie andcomic book heroes can look more like green photographs than amazing 3-Dimages.On the other hand, large-scale holograms, illuminated withlasersor displayed in a darkened room with carefullydirected lighting, are incredible. They're two-dimensional surfaces that show absolutely precise, three-dimensionalimages of real objects. You don't even have to wear special glasses or look through a View-Master to see the images in 3-D.If you look at these holograms from different angles, you see objects from different perspectives, just like you would if you were looking at a real object.Some holograms even appear to move as you walk past them and look at them from different angles. Others change colors or include views of completelydifferent objects, depending on how you look at them.
If you tear a hologram in half, you can still see the whole image in each piece. The same is true with smaller and smaller pieces.
Holograms have other surprising traits as well. If you cut one in half, each half contains whole views of the entire holographic image. The same is true if youcut out a small piece -- even a tiny fragment will still contain the whole picture. On top of that, if you make a hologram of a magnifying glass, the holographicversion will magnify the other objects in the hologram, just like a real one.
How Light WorksHow Cameras WorkTreeHugger.com:Prince CharlesHologram
Howstuffworks "How Holograms Work"http://science.howstuffworks.com/hologram.htm/printable1 of 155/24/2009 1:41 PM
Once you know the principles behind holograms, understanding how they can do all this is easy. This article will explain how a hologram, light and your brainwork together make clear, 3-D images. All of a hologram's properties come directly from the process used to create it, so we'll start with an overview of what it takes to make one.
Transmission and Reflection
There are two basic categories of holograms -- transmission andreflection. Transmission holograms create a 3-D image whenmonochromatic light, or light that is all one wavelength, travelsthrough them. Reflection holograms create a 3-D image when laser light or white light reflects off of their surface. For the sake of simplicity, this article discusses transmission holograms viewedwith the help of a laser except where noted.
Special Thanks
Special thanks to
Dr. Chuck Bennett
, Professor of Physics at the University of North Carolina atAsheville, for his assistance with this article.
Making a Hologram
It doesn't take very many tools to make a hologram. You can make one with:A
: Red lasers, usually
helium-neon (HeNe)
lasers, are common in holography. Some home holography experiments rely on the diodesfrom red laser pointers, but the light from a laser pointer tends to be less coherent and less stable, which can make it hard to get a goodimage. Some types of holograms use lasers that produce different colors of light as well. Depending on the type of laser you're using, you mayalso need a
to control the exposure.
Holography is often referred to as "lensless photography," but holography does require lenses. However, a camera's lens focuseslight, while the lenses used in holography cause the beam to spread out.A
beam splitter 
: This is a device that uses mirrors and prisms to split one beam of light into two beams.
: These direct the beams of light to the correct locations. Along with the lenses and beam splitter, the mirrors have to be absolutelyclean. Dirt and smudges can degrade the final image.
Holographic film
: Holographic film can record light at a very high resolution, which is necessary for creating a hologram. It's a layer of light-sensitive compounds on a transparent surface, like photographic film. The difference between holographic and photographic film is thatholographic film has to be able to record very small changes in light that take place over microscopic distances. In other words, it needs to havea very fine
. In some cases, holograms that use a red laser rely on emulsions that respond most strongly to red light.There are lots of different ways to arrange these tools -- we'll stick to a basic
transmission hologram
setup for now.The laser points at the beam splitter, which divides the beam of light into two parts.1.Mirrors direct the paths of these two beams so that they hit their intended targets.2.Each of the two beams passes through a diverging lens and becomes a wide swath of light rather than a narrow beam.3.One beam, the
beam, reflects off of the object and onto the photographic emulsion.4.The other beam, the
beam, hits the emulsion without reflecting off of anything other than a mirror.5.
Howstuffworks "How Holograms Work"http://science.howstuffworks.com/hologram.htm/printable2 of 155/24/2009 1:41 PM
Image courtesyConsumer Guide Products
Since holography typically usesred lasers, red darkroomsafelights like this one mayinterfere with the final image.
Getting a good image out of this setup requires a suitable work space. In some ways, the requirements for this spaceare more stringent than the requirements for your equipment. The darker the room is, the better. A good option for adding a little light to the room without affecting the finished hologram is a safelight, like the ones used in darkrooms.Since darkroom safelights are often red and holography often uses red light, there are green and blue-green safelightsmade specifically for holography.Holography also requires a working surface that can keep the equipment absolutely still -- it can't vibrate when you walkacross the room or when cars drive by outside. Holography labs and professional studios often use specially designedtables that have honeycomb-shaped support layers resting on
legs. These are under the table's top surface,and they dampen vibration. You can make your own holography table by placing inflated inner tubes on a low table, thenplacing a box full of a thick layer of sand on top of it. The sand and the inner tubes will play the role of the professionaltable's honeycombs and pneumatic supports. If you don't have enough space for such a large table, you can improviseusing cups of sand or sugar to hold each piece of equipment, but these won't be as steady as a larger setup.To make clear holograms, you need to reduce vibration in the air as well. Heating and air conditioning systems can blow the air around, and so can themovement of your body, your breath and even the dissipation of your body heat. For these reasons, you'll need to turn the heating and cooling system off and wait for a few minutes after setting up your equipment to make the hologram.These precautions sound a little like photography advice taken to the extreme -- when you take pictures with a camera, you have to keep your lens clean,control light levels and hold the camera absolutely still. This is because making a hologram is a lot like taking a picture with a microscopic level of detail.We'll look at how holograms are like photographs in the next section.
Holograms and Photographs
When you take a picture with a film camera, four basic steps happen in an instant:A shutter opens.1.Light passes through a lens and hits the photographic emulsion on a piece of film.2.A light-sensitive compound called
silver halide
reacts with the light, recording its
or intensity, as it reflects off of the scene in frontof you.3.The shutter closes.4.You can make lots of changes to this process, like how far the shutter opens, how much the lens magnifies the scene and how much extra light you add tothe mix. But no matter what changes you make, the four basic steps are still the same. In addition, regardless of changes to the setup, the resulting pictureis still simply a recording of the intensity of reflected light. When you develop the film and make a print of the picture, your eyes and brain interpret the lightthat reflects from the picture as a representation of the original image. You can learn more about the process inHow Vision Works,How Cameras Workand How Film Works.
In photography, light passes through a lens and a shutter before hitting a piece of film or a light-sensitive sensor.
Like photographs, holograms are recordings of reflected light. Making them requires steps that are similar to what it takes to make a photograph:
Howstuffworks "How Holograms Work"http://science.howstuffworks.com/hologram.htm/printable3 of 155/24/2009 1:41 PM

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