Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Choreographing light

13.11.2012
EPFL scientists have developed an algorithm to control light patterns called "caustics" and organize them into coherent images

It's a simple, transparent acrylic plate – nothing embedded within it and nothing printed on its surface. Place it at a certain angle between a white wall and a light source, and a clear, coherent image appears of the face of Alan Turing, the famous British mathematician and father of modern computer science.


Researchers at EPFL found a way to control "caustics", patterns that appear when light hits a water surface or a transparent material. Thanks to an algorithm, they can shape a transparent object so that it reflects a coherent image.

Credit: (c) Alain Herzog

There's no magic here; the only thing at work is the relief on the plaque's surface and a natural optical phenomenon known as a "caustic," which researchers in EPFL's Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory have succeeded in bending to their will. Their research was presented recently at the Advances in Architectural Geometry Conference in Paris.

"With the technique that we've developed, we can compose any image we want, from a simple form such as a star to complex representations such as faces or landscapes," explains EPFL professor Mark Pauly, head of the laboratory, who conducted the study with four other scientists*.

This "caustic" effect is well known and easy to observe; a bit of sunlight shining on a pool of water produces patterns that dance on the surrounding tiles or walls. These undulating lines, apparently random, are generated by light that hits the moving surface of a pool or puddle. This effect, which is very mobile and dynamic in liquid, produces static patterns with solid transparent materials such as glass or transparent acrylic (better known as Plexiglass).

Deviated trajectories

Scientifically, this phenomenon can be explained by light refraction. When light rays hit a transparent surface, they continue their trajectory but are bent as a function of the surface geometry and optical properties of the material. The light passing through is thus not uniformly distributed. It gets concentrated in certain points, forming some zones that are more intense and others that are more shaded.

Pauly and his colleagues studied the principles of this distribution, and were able to identify the curves and undulations they would need to give to the surface in order to direct the beams of light to a desired area. They then developed an algorithm to calculate the trajectories very precisely and thus form a specific image.

One of the most interesting and eagerly awaited applications of this method is in architecture. It could be applied to display cases, windows, fountains, and ornamentations on museums and monuments. In design it could be used for decorating glasses, vases, carafes, jewelry and many other objects. It has considerable potential in other, more technical applications as well, such as automobile headlights and projectors.

See the Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NXNAIqU8KM

*Thomas Kiser (EPFL), Michael Eigensatz (Evolute), Minh Man Nguyen (WAO) and Philippe Bompas.

Mark Pauly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.epfl.ch
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NXNAIqU8KM

Further reports about: Choreographing Choreographing light EPFL Source algorithm coherent images geometry

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

nachricht Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect
24.05.2017 | University of Cologne

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>