Science fiction writers are going to have to get much more imaginative now that technological advancements and scientific progress are making what was once only sci-fi an actual reality. This time, it has to do with 3D display technology.

Researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia have created a new way of making 3D holographic displays by tapping graphene to build a 3D pop-up. We're talking the wild ingenuity that helped make movies such as Avatar and Star Wars massive hits.

The news comes as more research into graphene is proving to be game-changing in more than a few industries, including printing, batteries and electronic circuitry.

In the past several years, graphene has become a much more mainstream technology, given its increasing use in the mobile computing and smartphone design worlds. It has emerged as a differentiator, with the arrival of wearables and touchscreen display on handsets and mobile computing devices, such as tablets and fitness bands.

Graphene is a carbon material made from graphite, which is about a single-atom thick. In this most recent development, scientists have made nanoscale pixels of refractive index without having to use temperature changes.

"If you can change the refractive index, you can create lots of optical effects," explained Min Gu, director of Swinburne's Centre for Micro-Photonics. "Our technique can be leveraged to achieve compact and versatile optical components for controlling light. We can create the wide-angle display necessary for mobile phones and tablets."

According to the research findings, published in Nature Communications, the discovery could lead to the next-generation of 3D display technology using graphene oxide and complex laser physics.

In the simplest terms, it means moviegoers will no longer need those 3D glasses to enjoy holograms.

"Owing to its atomic layer thickness and high mechanical strength, the use of graphene in mobile display units for flat two-dimensional displays is burgeoning," said Xiangping Li, one of the research team members. "Our technology could also underpin future flexible and wearable display devices and transform them for 3D display."

A next-gen digital holographic capability could be used in a wide range of fields, including medical, military, educational and entertainment (especially movie-making) technology.

One of the most memorable scenes that any Star Wars fan will be happy to recall, for instance, is when Princess Leia taps a hologram to send a message to Obi Wan Kenobi in the 1977 flick.

More than a few people believe movies like Star Wars and Avatar, which relied heavily on hologram, have helped spur greater research and investigation into making holograms and digital displays a reality.

The hope, as expressed by the research team in the study paper, is that wearable display devices will eventually become floating 3D displays.

Photo: M Hweldon | Flickr

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