Creating Holograms

With the holiday season upon us, many of us have our children sitting at home getting bored. Well, in my house, when the kids say they're bored, out comes the science experiments.

Over the years, I've managed to accumulate a variety of different experiments that you can do using common household items. I thought that it would be fun to get my children to help me share them with you, so you can share them with your children. To my surprise, the station owners of KLRNRadio were happy to support the idea and have given me their full backing. So here we go...

Conversations in Science: Experiments with Kids

If you search the Internet, you will find many different pages and examples of people that have turned their smartphones into holographic projectors. All of them work on the same principle: reflection and virtual images. Seeing how simple these projectors were to construct, I couldn't resist making one of my own and sharing it with you all.

Holographic Image

Using the plastic from CD cases, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a holographic projector.

To create your own holographic projector, you'll need the following:

  • Smartphone or tablet
  • Clear plastic from CD cases
  • Tape
  • Box cutter or craft knife
  • Template for pieces
  • Marker

Step 1

The template you need is based on an equilateral triangle with the top cut off and is shown in the image below. There are two sizes shown: the one on the left is for mobile phones, where the one on the right is the largest unit that can be made from a CD case.

Templates for Holographic Projector

Templates for homemade holographic projector pieces. To convert to inches, divide the measurements in centimeters by 2.54. (Click image to see full sized image.)

Mark edges and cut out.

Mark the edges of your shapes onto the clear plastic of a CD case, then cut them out. You'll need four identical pieces.

Step 2

After you have your template, mark the plastic, then score straight lines with a box cutter. It will then be possible to snap out the pieces. (Hint: Score the line several times, then flip the piece over and bend the cover in the opposing direction for a clean snap.) Make four pieces of identical size and shape.

Step 3

Piece it together

Tape the pieces together. Ensure that the openings are as square as possible.

Carefully tape together the pieces to form a pyramid structure. Make sure that the openings are as square as possible to the unit so it will stand up properly. (Hint: When done, run a thin layer of tape around the edges so you don't scratch the surface of your phone or tablet.)

Step 4

Download any number of videos from YouTube that you can used for your hologram. Or download an app that will allow you to use your own videos. However, do keep in mind that any videos that you use will be the reflected mirror-image in your hologram.

Holographic Image Videos
Holographic Image

The Science

Holograms are virtual images

The holographic image is actually a reflected image off the 45-degree surface slanted toward us.

The holographic image that we see using our homemade projectors is actually the reflected image that is seen reflected off the 45-degree surface that is slanted toward us. The image, from our perceptions, is situated behind the plastic, appearing in the middle of our projector unit. The image is not real, but is virtual.

Images are mirror image

All features are reflected so they appear on the corresponding side, so the image appears back to front.

However, one should note that we see a mirror-reflected image, i.e. any writing will be reversed. This is because of the angles involved. Like any mirror reflection, features from one side of an object will be seen on the same side of the image, just flipped front to back.

Regardless, playing around with holograms is lots of fun; the young and old alike enjoy the effects. (My husband loves sitting there watching a hologram while enjoying his breakfast.)

For more information about the homemade holographic projector and to see it in action, check out the special video edition of Conversations in Science: Experiments with Kids on the YouTube channel. (Video link is also shared below.)

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

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