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Anisotropic leaky-mode modulator for holographic video displays


Every holographic video display is built on a spatial light modulator, which directs light by diffraction to form points in three-dimensional space. The modulators currently used for holographic video displays are challenging to use for several reasons: they have relatively low bandwidth, high cost, low diffraction angle, poor scalability, and the presence of quantization noise, unwanted diffractive orders and zero-order light. Here we present modulators for holographic video displays based on anisotropic leaky-mode couplers, which have the potential to address all of these challenges. These modulators can be fabricated simply, monolithically and at low cost. Additionally, these modulators are capable of new functionalities, such as wavelength division multiplexing for colour display. We demonstrate three enabling properties of particular interest—polarization rotation, enlarged angular diffraction, and frequency domain colour filtering—and suggest that this technology can be used as a platform for low-cost, high-performance holographic video displays.

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Figure 1: Artefacts from a holographic stereogram on a pixelated (liquid crystal on silicon) modulator.
Figure 2: The structure and function of anisotropic mode-coupling modulators and modulator arrays.
Figure 3: Polarization rotation to exclude noise.
Figure 4: Waveguide illumination for larger angular diffraction.
Figure 5: Wavelength division multiplexing for colour displays.
Figure 6: Holographic stereograms made with a single channel anisotropic waveguide modulator, measuring 35 mm by 20 mm at the output of the display.
Figure 7: PC-driven holographic video monitor.


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This work was supported by consortium funding at the MIT Media Lab and by Intel Corp. Graphics hardware was provided by NVIDIA. D.E.S. thanks the MIT Nanostructures Laboratory for use of its facilities, E. Pearson for discussion, and D. Novy for assistance with GPU coding.

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D.E.S. performed experimental work and fabricated devices. D.E.S., Q.Y.J.S. and V.M.B. participated in conceptualization of waveguide phenomena for holographic video. D.E.S., Q.Y.J.S., V.M.B., J.B. and S.J. participated in the design and evaluation of experiments.

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Correspondence to D. E. Smalley.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-2, which illustrate the fabrication of waveguide modulators. (PDF 212 kb)

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Smalley, D., Smithwick, Q., Bove, V. et al. Anisotropic leaky-mode modulator for holographic video displays. Nature 498, 313–317 (2013).

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