Polaroid Corp. is developing film that is expected to permit "rapid, economic and simplified mass production of high-quality holograms," the three-dimensional images produced by recording and reproducing laser-light patterns.
Polaroid scientists told a meeting of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers in Los Angeles in late January that its DMP-128 Photopolymer Films can produce holograms with uniquely high levels of brightness and contrast, and that the films have high resistance to humidity.
They said that holograms made with the new films would represent an improvement over the embossed-surface holograms now used on buttons, credit cards, magazine covers and record albums.
Richard T. Ingwall and Herbert L. Fielding of Polaroid's Holography Research Laboratory said that dichromated gelatin emulsions -- the film coatings now used to produce holograms -- "require elaborate preparation, exposure and processing control," have a short shelf life and demand careful, costly handling.
Manufacturing and marketing plans for the new films have not been completed, although Polaroid is exploring their potential with some potential users and manufacturers, according to Barry Orenstein, Polaroid's business development manager for holographic products.
Holograms create three-dimensional images by recording not only the intensity of light reflected from an object, as standard photographs do, but the direction, as well. When the image is reproduced, a viewer "sees" it as identical to light reflecting from the original, and therefore it is perceived in three dimensions.
The new holographic film differs from standard photographic film in two ways, Ingwall said: It has a greater resolution -- several thousand lines per millimeter instead of 100 -- and it creates an image by bending light instead of absorbing it.
"We had what we thought was a very good idea, and the idea proved to be practical," he said. Ingwall added that producing the new film did not present Polaroid with a problem, because the film-coating technology already developed for instant film can be utilized.
"Hologram" comes from the Greek holos and gramma, and means "the whole message." Dennis Gabor, a Nobel Laureate, developed the holographic technique in 1947 to improve the electron microscope by taking pictures without lenses.
The onset of the laser in 1960 significantly improved the methods of recording holograms. Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks developed a method in the United States of making holograms by using a laser beam to illuminate a subject, while Yuri Denisyuk came up independently with a technique in the Soviet Union for recording display holograms.
Not only can holograms be produced by "photographing" objects, but they also can be generated by computer. The latter eventually should lead to three-dimensional television, according to an article by H. John Caulfield of Aerodyne Research Inc. published in last March's issue of National Geographic.
Asked about the future of holography, Ingwall made these points:
* Polaroid is working "on a machine that will make holograms for display purposes that would be viewable under ordinary light." Lasers always are used to make holograms, and previously also were necessary for viewing them.
* Chances "are not very good" for development of a home holographic camera in the next five years.
* Holographic movies "are not out of the question. In fact, there are holographic movies that have been shown in special theaters in the Soviet Union. I'd love to see them. There's definitely interest in making those things available to the general public [but] I don't know if it will happen in my lifetime."