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 Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials
17.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Polymers Based on Boron?

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered

18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>