Augmented Reality A Hundred Times Less Expensive
Zombies or enemies flashing right before your eyes and the dizzying feeling of standing on the edge of a cliff using virtual reality and augmented reality (AR and VR) are no longer exclusive to the games or media industries. These technologies allow us to conduct virtual conferences, share presentations and videos, and communicate in real time in virtual space. But because of the high cost and bulkiness of VR and AR devices, the virtual world is not currently within easy reach.
Recently, a South Korean research team developed moldable nanomaterials and a printing technology using metamaterials, allowing the commercialization of inexpensive and thin VR and AR devices.
Professor Junsuk Rho of the departments of mechanical engineering and chemical engineering and doctoral student in mechanical engineering Gwanho Yoon at POSTECH with Professor Heon Lee and researcher Kwan Kim of the department of material science at Korea University have jointly developed a new nanomaterial and large-scale nanoprinting technology for commercialization of metamaterials. The research findings, which solve the issue of device size and high production costs that were problematic in previous research, were recently published in Nature Communications.
Metamaterials are substances made from artificial atoms that do not exist in nature but freely control the properties of light. An invisible cloak that makes an illusion of disappearance by adjusting the refraction or diffraction of light, or metaholograms that can produce different hologram images depending on the direction of light’s entrance, uses this metamaterial. Using this principle, the ultrathin metalens technology, which can replace the conventional optical system with extreme thinness, was recently selected as one of the top 10 emerging technologies to change the world at the World Economic Forum last year.
In order to make metamaterials, artificial atoms smaller than the wavelengths of light must be meticulously constructed and arranged. Until now, metamaterials have been produced through a method called electron beam lithography (EBL). However, EBL has hindered the commercialization or production of sizable metamaterials due to its slow process speed and high cost of production. To overcome these limitations, the joint research team developed a new nanomaterial based on nanoparticle composite that can be molded freely while having optical characteristics suitable for fabricating metamaterials. The team also succeeded in developing a one-step printing technique that can shape the materials in a single-step process.