'Smart' holograms help patients help themselves

February 4, 2008

Patients with diabetes, cardiac problems, kidney disorders or high blood pressure could benefit from the development of new hologram technology. The new "smart" holograms, which can detect changes in, for example, blood-glucose levels, should make self-diagnosis much simpler, cheaper and more reliable, write Chris Lowe and Cynthia Larbey in February’s Physics World.

A hologram is a recording of an optical interference pattern created when laser light shone on an object is made to overlap with a separate beam of light that does not pass through the object. When light is shone onto the interference pattern, a 3D image of the original object is recreated.

Traditional holograms, like those on your credit card, are stored on photo-sensitive materials and remain unchanged with time. Smart holograms, however, use materials called hydrogels that shrink or swell in response to local environmental conditions. Such holograms can therefore be used as sensors to detect chemical imbalances in potentially fatal situations.

Smart Holograms, a spin-out company from the Institute of Biotechnology at Cambridge University, has already developed a hand-held syringe to measure water content in aviation fuel tanks – necessary because aeroplane engines are liable to freeze mid-air if there is more than 30 parts water to million fuel.

The same ability to detect chemical imbalances could be used by diabetics to check their blood-sugar levels; by patients with kidney disorders to check on adrenaline levels; by security forces to detect chemicals like anthrax after a terrorist attack; or, less urgently but with wide applicability, by glazing firms to detect whether water has crept in between window panes, something that can cause long-term structural damage.

Since the Nobel-prize-winning physicist Dennis Gabor first unveiled their underlying principles, holograms have become widely used as authentication tags to deter copying, and on credit cards, passports, banknotes. They also underpin the technology of supermarket scanners and CD players.

As Chris Lowe and Cynthia Larbey write, “Visual images produced by smart holograms can be made to appear or disappear under appropriate chemical or biological stimuli which makes them ideal for use in Breathalysers, monitoring heart conditions and for various security and smart packaging systems.”

Source: Institute of Physics

Explore further: Optics augments reality and brings 3-D medicine into focus

Related Stories

Optics augments reality and brings 3-D medicine into focus

August 9, 2016

Live 3-D imaging is one of the hottest topics in optics today, transforming medical imaging capabilities and delivering the immersive experience behind augmented and virtual reality. During The Optical Society's Light the ...

Tech giants bet on 'smart home' revolution

September 10, 2014

It's long been the stuff of science fiction, but tech giants hope the "smart home", where gadgets talk to each other and the fridge orders the milk, will soon become reality.

Holographic diagnostics

January 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —'Smart' holograms, which are currently being tested to monitor diabetes, and could be used to monitor a wide range of medical and environmental conditions in future, have been developed by researchers.

From quirky to revolutionary, the CES show has them all

January 9, 2015

Sure, the International CES show was chock full of connected cars, smart home sensors, music gear and computer gadgets, as you'd expect. There were even drones buzzing the 160,000-plus people that tromped across the 2.2 million ...

Recommended for you

Understanding nature's patterns with plasmas

August 23, 2016

Patterns abound in nature, from zebra stripes and leopard spots to honeycombs and bands of clouds. Somehow, these patterns form and organize all by themselves. To better understand how, researchers have now created a new ...

Light and matter merge in quantum coupling

August 22, 2016

Where light and matter intersect, the world illuminates. Where light and matter interact so strongly that they become one, they illuminate a world of new physics, according to Rice University scientists.

Measuring tiny forces with light

August 25, 2016

Photons are bizarre: They have no mass, but they do have momentum. And that allows researchers to do counterintuitive things with photons, such as using light to push matter around.

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics

August 23, 2016

A future of soft robots that wash your dishes or smart T-shirts that power your cell phone may depend on the development of stretchy power sources. But traditional batteries are thick and rigid—not ideal properties for ...

Spherical tokamak as model for next steps in fusion energy

August 24, 2016

Among the top puzzles in the development of fusion energy is the best shape for the magnetic facility—or "bottle"—that will provide the next steps in the development of fusion reactors. Leading candidates include spherical ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.