Researchers at MIT have discovered that they can significantly increase light diffusion by suspending glass particles in liquid. They believe that eventually, the work could lead to the creation of holographic video screens and tunable optical displays.
Glass particles and liquid both increase diffusivity
The scientists were surprised by the diffusion they achieved using the process, because it was significantly greater than what current theory predicts. Their experiments involved using glass particles and fluid that have similar refractive properties. This is key because under ordinary conditions, light travels through the experimental media at very similar speeds. When two materials that have different refractive properties are paired, light transmitted through the materials changes directions. They also knew that changes in temperature of the liquid would change its refractivity.
In their experiments, changing the temperature of the liquid by 10 degrees significantly changed the diffusivity of the materials by 10 times, but a change in temperature of 42 degrees increased the diffusivity of the material by 1,000 times. Equally surprising was that the change in temperature increased the diffusivity of both the glass particles and the fluid medium.
The discovery could eventually change the way medical imaging is conducted. The process has the potential to redefine the way health care researchers and professionals look at biological tissues. The technology could also be used to create the illusion of 3-dimensions. In medical imaging, 3-dimensional representations could help diagnose disease and help healthcare professionals visualize tissue structures in the body.
The researchers also believe the technology has other non-medical applications. They envision design applications that will allow the user (or viewer) to “tune” the appearance of solid objects like furniture to suit an interior design plan.
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Photo Credit: Kenneth Lu, via Flickr.com