A group of Australian and Chinese scientists working at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has developed what it claims is the “world’s thinnest hologram” – almost one thousand times thinner than a human hair.

Min Gu led the study, which created a “nano-hologram” measuring just 25 nanometers thick. Human hair, by comparison, has a thickness of around 1000 nanometers. The professor at the research innovation and entrepreneurship department said: “Conventional computer-generated holograms are too big for electronic devices but our ultrathin hologram overcomes those size barriers.”

“Our nano-hologram is also fabricated using a simple and fast direct laser writing system, which makes our design suitable for large-scale uses and mass manufacture […] Integrating holography into everyday electronics would make screen size irrelevant – a pop-up 3D hologram can display a wealth of data that doesn’t neatly fit on a phone or watch.”

The system, which doesn’t require 3D glasses, uses a thin film of “topological insulator material” called antimony telluride (Sb2Te3) that’s simple to manufacture and reduces the size of holograms.

The next step in the process is to develop a rigid film that can be laid over an LCD screen to create the 3D holographic display. This will require the hologram to become ten times smaller than it already is, but could result in the sort of holographic-capable smartphones, TVs, and wearables that were once only seen in sci-fi.

“From medical diagnostics to education, data storage, defense and cyber security, 3D holography has the potential to transform a range of industries and this research brings that revolution one critical step closer,” added Gu.