Hologram Science Projects

By Alec Jeong
© 2006-2015 Integraf

1. Introduction

This article introduces you to nine easy to advanced hologram projects teachers and students can do simply and affordably.

Hologram science projects for first-time holographers range from basic to slightly more complex experiments. Many school or science fair projects usually require use of the "scientific method". So, in our hologram project descriptions below, we've listed the variable that can be changed in each hologram experiment and some hypothetical questions to get you going. We've also briefly mentioned how each hologram science experiment relates to real-life applications.

Before pursuing the the projects described below, we recommend you first make a basic reflection hologram, which is quite easy to do and can be accomplished in about a hour or two (see "Simple Holography") . Doing this first will give you the necessary grasp of the fundamentals before you change variables (that is, "experiment") with your set up. In some cases, you may also want to make a transmission hologram as well, which is just as easy to do (see "How to Make Transmission Holograms")

TIP: When using the "scientific method", change only one variable at a time and keep everything else constant. This way you can determine the relationship between the variable and the result.

Basic Hologram Science Projects

Project #1: Exposure Time

  • Variable. Change the amount of time you expose the holographic plate and object to the laser.
  • Hypothetical Questions. Will the hologram be brighter or darker? Will it change color? Does over-exposure do anything? Why?
  • Real-Life Application. Determining the optimal exposure time is what professional holographers grapple with everyday.
  • Why is this interesting? You'll be surprised with the results, because it's not what you normally think. While holography share some similarities to photography, the physics of it actually has some differences.

Project #2: Developer Time or Temperature

  • Variable. Change the amount of time you process the exposed holographic plate in the chemical developer, or change the temperature of the chemical solutions slightly.
  • Hypothetical Questions. Will the hologram be brighter or darker? Will it change color, and if so, what colors? Why?
  • Real-Life Application. Just like in photography, the quality of the image in holography is dependent just as much on the initial exposure as on the development process. Professional holographers are able to make single-color holograms appear full-color! How is that possible?
  • Why is this interesting? Again, you'll be surprised with the results, because it's not what you normally think. Hint: Read up on wavelengths and photographic emulsions to understand why the results turn out the way they do.

Project #3: Material of Object

  • Variable. Change the material from which the object of your hologram is made, i.e. try metal, wood, plastic, and paper.
  • Hypothetical Questions. Will the hologram turn out exactly the same, or will there be some good ones and some non-existent ones? Are there unusual patterns that form on the image? Why?
  • Real-Life Application. The hologram of an eagle on the Visa credit card uses a physical model, likely made of porcelain or hard plastic. Professional holographers choose their material wisely.
  • Why is this interesting? Choice of material can make or break your hologram. The interesting part is why. Hint: Ask yourself, are "solid" objects really solid or do they move, and if the hologram capturing the "image" or is it capturing microscopic interference patterns

Project #4: Temperature of Object

  • Variable. Slightly change the temperature of the object used as the subject of your hologram between different exposures, using the same or new holographic plate.
  • Hypothetical Questions. Are there unusual patterns that form on the image? Do some holograms turn out while others do not? Why?
  • Real-Life Application. Engineers have used holographic principles to understand the effect of heat and cold on materials. For example, what happens to certain car engine parts during the winter versus the summer? What material should they use to make that engine part?
  • Why is this interesting? Holograms capture microscopic movements in a way that photographs cannot do.

Intermediate Hologram Science Projects

Project #5: Multi-Channel Hologram Memory

  • Variable. Change the angle of the holographic plate and the object to make a multi-image hologram on a single holographic plate.
  • Hypothetical Questions. How many different images can be produced on a single plate? Is there a theoretical limit to this number, and how can one try to approach that theoretical limit?
  • Real-Life Application. This leading edge technology allows data storage disks to carry terabytes of information that are easy to retrieve. The same technology also allows security holograms on ID cards show different information from different angles, making difficult to photocopy.
  • Why is this interesting? Having multiple channels to display or control light at different angles has far reaching implications. With such control, the medical industry, for example, is creating a concept around "holographic tweezers", which can precisely manipulate and move cancer cells.

Project #6: Non-Destructive Testing . . . of a Fighter Jet

  • Variable. Change the amount of stress on the object of the hologram, by placing a weight on it, making an exposure, taking off the weight, an then making a second exposure on the same holographic plate.
  • Hypothetical Questions. Will the hologram turn out? If so, what do you expect to see in this holographic image?
  • Real-Life Application. These holographic principles are used by civil, mechanical, and aeronautical engineers to find out how stress effects materials and machines. In fact, at one time, holographic interferometry was once used to see how much many g-forces an F-16 fighter wing can take under simulated combat situations.
  • Why is this interesting? Holographic interferometry and its derivations allow you to see microscopic changes. Well, you probably won't be able do testing on an F-16 without getting arrested by the CIA or military, but you can try these experiments on a model plane or toy car.

Advanced Hologram Science Projects

Project #7: Growing Mushrooms

  • Variable. Show how much a mushroom grows in 2 minutes.
  • Hypothetical Questions. Do mushrooms continually grow? Can one really see such differences in growth?
  • Real-Life Application. Called holographic interferometry, this experimentation method is the basis of many techniques for measuring microscopic movements. This project was undertaken by one of our customers about over 10 years ago as part of a science project. Not surprisingly, this student went on to win his science fair and more.
  • Why is this interesting? Amazingly simple in theory, doing this project successfully requires you to develop a solid understanding of making holograms. The amazing fact is that all this can be accomplished with the simplest of materials and equipment, as with the other basic and intermediate projects above. With the knowledge you gain from this project, you can easily go on to more even more advanced projects, such as split-beam holography.

Other Hologram Science Projects

Unlike those listed above, there isn't really any "variable" to change in the projects in this section. Rather, these experiments are meant to teach you the basics of the practice of advanced holography. Contact us if you 'd like to make these holograms. We'd be happy to give you guidance.

Project #8: Hologram of Hologram (H1/H2)

  • Task. Make a hologram (H2) of a master hologram (H1)
  • Observations. Have you ever wondered how to make a hologram that really sticks out in front of the frame? Well, this H1/H2 technique is how it's done. One makes a master hologram, and then makes a copy hologram of that hologram. The basic principles in H1/H2 holograms is also used in mass-produced holograms, such as those on your credit card, passport, or security labels.

Project #9: Diffraction Grating

  • Task. Make a holographic diffraction grating
  • Observations. A holographic diffraction grating is basically a hologram of a ray of light. Diffraction gratings are commonly found in monochromators, spectrometers, sunglasses, and even nature, i.e. iridescent butterfly wings. Scientists frequently use diffraction gratings to study light, and even to determine the elements that make up our sun.
  • Note. This project requires you to have a front-surface (also known as first-surface mirror, around $15).

What Supplies Do I Need?

All the hologram science projects above require only the simplest of supplies and equipment, costing around $100 or so.

Most of the essential items described in this article can be found in Integraf's holography kits or are available separately. The kits provide materials for you to make many kinds of holograms, including reflection holograms and transmission holograms, and include step-by-step instructions for making reflection holograms.

If you prefer to purchase materials separately, you'll need those listed in our article "Simple Holography" and our downloadable Step-by-Step Instructions. At the very least, you will need an appropriate diode laser for holography, a supply of Slavich PFG-03M 2.5 x 2.5 inch plates (63mm x 63mm), and a JD-4 processing kit (or PFG-01 plates with JD-2). You do NOT need vibration-proof tables or specialized equipment to do the hologram projects listed on this page.