Modular sub-wavelength diffractive light modulator for high-definition holographic displays

Richard Stahl
IMEC, Belgium

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Holography is undoubtedly the ultimate 3D visualization technology, offering true 3D experience with all the natural depth cues, without the undesirable side-effects of current stereoscopic systems (uncomfortable glasses, strained eyes, fatiguing experience). Realization of a high-definition holographic display however requires a number of breakthroughs from existing prototypes. One of the main challenges lies in technology scaling, as holography is based on light diffraction and interference – to achieve wide viewing angles, the light-modulating pixels need to be spaced close to or below the wavelength of the used visible light. Furthermore, achieving high 3D image quality, hundreds of millions of such individually programmable pixels are needed.

As a solution, we develop a modular sub-wavelength light modulator, consisting of three main sub-systems: the optical sub-system, comprising a 2D array of sub-wavelength pixels; the driver sub-system for individual pixel control, and the holographic computational engine. Based on conclusions from our state-of-the art studies, numerous experiments and holographic demonstrators, we have focused on reflective phase-modulating MEMS-based system and its scaling beyond 500nm pitch. We have devised a unique binary-programmable phase-modulating pixel architecture realizing vertical pixel displacement of up to 150nm at 500nm by 500nm pixel pitch, while sustaining low operating voltages compatible with CMOS driver circuitry. IMEC SiGe MEMS technology enables integration of the CMOS pixel-line drivers, scan-line drivers and I/O circuits underneath the 2D MEMS array, resulting in a compact and modular single-chip system design. Refresh rates of few hundred frames per second are achieved using our patented segmented driver-array architecture. Integrated circuits implementing parallel holographic computational engines can be added to the module using advanced 3D stacking technology.

Herein we further report on our progress in realizing our first prototype system, featuring 2000×2000 pixels with 1.2µm pixel pitch, to demonstrate the first holographic video module with approximately 30 degree diffraction angle.

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