Sep 23, 2016 | By Tess

When we think of holograms it is difficult to not immediately think of Princess Leia’s holographic plea to Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope and the use of the technology as a communication system. In our current reality, however, holographic technology has much wider and more diverse applications going even beyond the use of light to create holograms. For instance, a team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Germany is developing a way to create holograms using sound, water, and 3D printed blocks.

The innovative project, which was recently published on in Nature, an international weekly journal of science, essentially uses the same principles as traditional light holography, which essentially works by exposing a special 2D image to light to create a 3D image, only uses sound instead. Even this early on in the research, the results are pretty amazing.

As you can see in the video posted below, the scientists have been able to achieve similar results using sound combined with intricately designed 3D printed blocks to create what are essentially acoustic holograms. While the science behind it is not quite so simple, the researchers have basically been developing special 3D printed plastic blocks which are embedded with different structures and images, which when placed in front of a special set of audio speakers, can scatter sound waves in a particular pattern corresponding to what is printed on the block.

Of course, sound waves are invisible, so to make the hologram apparent, the scientists introduced the element of water, which makes the sound wave images apparent. Using this method they have successfully levitated water droplets, moved small paper boats in a perfect circle on a water surface, and have even made water rings in the shape of a dove (corresponding to the dove design on the 3D printed block).

This is not the first time that sound has been used to alter and “put pressure” on matter, however, as previous research has shown that sound can be used to create “acoustic tweezers” and even “acoustic tractor beams” which can move and manipulate small objects in air or liquids. What is remarkable about the acoustic holograms is that they do away with the complicated transducers requires for the aforementioned technologies and replace them with simple, and low cost 3D printed blocks. Impressively, the resulting 3D sound fields are about 100 times more detailed than previous ones.

As Peer Fischer, co-author of the study and physical chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, explains, “Instead of using a rather complex and cumbersome set of transducers, we use a piece of plastic that cost a few dollars from a 3D printer. With an incredibly simple approach, we can create extremely complex, sophisticated acoustic fields that would be difficult to achieve otherwise.”

Ultrasound driven surfer: a standing wave can be produced on the water's surface with a hologram, on which a paper boat surfs along in circles.
© Kai Melde / MPI for Intelligent Systems

While the results of the research are undeniably pretty, the potential applications of the acoustic holograms are what is really interesting. Specifically, the acoustic hologram research could lead to the development of more advanced ultrasound therapies which employ specially designed sound fields to precisely target infected or unhealthy tissues in the human body without affecting the healthy cells. The research could also ultimately help to advance the resolution of ultrasonic imaging.

Currently, the team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, Germany are working on animating their 3D sound fields. We can’t wait to see the results!



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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