Soon on the anvil will be novel hi-tech holograms that may make self-diagnosis much simpler, cheaper and more reliable for patients suffering from various diseases.
The new "smart" holograms may benefit patients with diabetes, cardiac problems, kidney disorders or high blood pressure.
A paper published in the journal Physics World reveals that the new holograms can detect changes in blood-glucose levels.
Its authors Chris Lowe and Cynthia Larbey write that the new technology may make self-diagnosis much simpler, cheaper and more reliable.
A hologram is a recording of an optical interference pattern created when laser light shone on an object is made to overlap with a separate beam of light that does not pass through the object. When light is shone onto the interference pattern, a 3D image of the original object is recreated.
Traditional holograms are stored on photo-sensitive materials and remain unchanged with time. However, smart holograms use materials called hydrogels that shrink or swell in response to local environmental conditions.
This feature of smart holograms makes them suitable to be used as sensors to detect chemical imbalances in potentially fatal situations.
Smart Holograms, a spin-out company from the Institute of Biotechnology at Cambridge University, has already developed a hand-held syringe to measure water content in aviation fuel tanks, which is necessary as aeroplane engines are liable to freeze mid-air if there is more than 30 parts water to million fuel.
Lowe and Larbey believe that the same ability to detect chemical imbalances could be used by diabetics to check their blood-sugar levels, and by patients with kidney disorders to check on adrenaline levels.
According to them, security forces can use it to detect chemicals like anthrax after a terrorist attack.
"Visual images produced by smart holograms can be made to appear or disappear under appropriate chemical or biological stimuli which makes them ideal for use in Breathalysers, monitoring heart conditions and for various security and smart packaging systems," Lowe and Larbey write.