Star Wars franchise inspires new light manipulating technology
Moving 3D light structures have been developed by chemists at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, US.
To produce a 3D image, Alex Lippert and his colleagues combined small, photoactivatable molecules with a solvent. In order to ensure that the mixture could be used multiple times, N-substituted spirolactam rhodamines were used as they have a non-fluorescent ‘off’ state and a fluorescent ‘on’ state which can be activated by illuminating the mixture with ultraviolet light. Combined with dichloromethane and triethylamine and exposed to intersecting beams of green and ultraviolet light, the particles switch ‘on’ and fluoresce to generate images and animations. So far, the same solution can be used for several months before needing to be replaced.
Although in its infancy, this futuristic technology is relatively inexpensive – the prototype cost under $5000 (£3800) to develop, not including the computer used to run the graphics. The system has no moving parts, uses low-power light sources and is relatively easy to implement, and its creators suggest that in the future it could be developed further for both academic and industrial use.
A Lippert et al, Nat. Comm., 2017, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15239