Information Agencies Interested in Potential Applications of Xenon Ray Transmission
SALT LAKE CITY - A team of researchers at the University of Utah has developed a prototype technology that may herald a new realm of holographic experience. The catch? For the moment, it's invisible to the naked eye.
The secret to this new form of holography lies in recently uncovered properties of Clathrate Hydrates containing Xenon. Early experiments involved exciting these crystalline structures with a positive electrical charge in the presence of xenon. New optical gas imaging cameras revealed that the spatial structure of the xenon crystals was being projected into the xenon-saturated air.
"To call the emissions of xenon crystals a 'ray' is a bit of a misnomer." said lead researcher Duayne Lis. "The crystals emit a type of energy, that is for sure, but the potential for holography actually lies in the way that patterns are projected into space and locate the air molecules themselves, which is a purely physical effect."
The prototype for a xenon-based holography system, called the X-Dome, is made out of two hemispherical shells forming a dome, packed with xenon crystals which must be kept pressurized and cool to retain their structure. On the inside of the dome is the xenon gas chamber. Outside are the electronics which convert input from a computer into the patterns of charge that are reflected in the holographic structure.
"The challenge of creating a program for a xenon-based holographic system is twofold. For one, as of yet there is no method for resolving what we call the 'spatial lattice' into a holographic image. Adding to the problem is the fact that once the pattern propagates through the xenon chamber, it interfaces with the pattern being projected by every other crystal emitter and the brownian motion of the gas itself. In a sense, we aren't talking about a straightforward input-output system. Our programmers now speak less in terms of feeding images into the X-Dome and more in terms of coaxing a certain harmony out of the space."
Although invisible, xenon rays aren't entirely beyond human perception. After initial testing, researchers mounted the X-dome on its side and installed an aperture. An ultra-thin latex glove was stretched across this opening to ensure no leakage of xenon from the chamber. Students within the school of computing can use this hole and glove to literally "feel" the hologram.
"It was a subtle effect at first but once I focused I started to notice it" undergraduate Ryan Gracie told Popular Mechanics. "You feel it in the fingertips first. It's a difficult sensation to describe. You can watch the pattern on the screen as it flexes and modulates and it's almost as if that pattern starts to come into being inside of your skin. It's a sort of pleasure that demands your attention, but when my hand is in the dome, I can hardly think of anything else."
Lis anticipates many of the problems with XRT technology resolving themselves as it is developed and scaled up. "The current prototype is large enough to fit a hand and not much else, but if a room-sized device were created, the hologram could be visualized from the inside in much the same manner that we currently visualize it from the outside. That is to say, a helmet could be fabricated incorporating a separate optical gas imager for each eye, allowing the spatial lattice to be observed in three dimensions. Because of the anesthetic properties of xenon, such a helmet would also need to supply fresh air to the wearer."
Work on XRT transmission at the University of Utah is partially funded by a federal stipend for technological advancement of sensory experience. When asked about the controversial aesthetic manifesto published by the FBI last fall, Lis offered no comment.