When it Comes to Science, South Korea Reaps What it Sows

January 2021

Scientific research is expensive and often messy, on occasions taking the research into uncharted territories but always contributing to scientific knowledge. Two recent success stories from South Korea in the field of holographic displays illustrate the need for long term planning.

According to OECD data, in 2018 South Korea spent over £74 billion on R&D, maintaining its position as the fifth largest R&D investor in the world after the United States, China, Japan and Germany. The Korean Government has set a target to increase the R&D investment to reach 5%. In 2020, the total government R&D budget was planned to be £15.73 billion, which is more than a 17% increase from the 2019 budget.


The majority of Korean R&D is conducted by the industrial sector (76.23%, 2017) and carried out within the ‘chaebol’ or the large family-controlled international conglomerates that dominate the Korean economy.

As part of efforts to find wider uses for holograms, researchers from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), one of the country’s chaebols, began to study the development of holographic displays. After eight years of trials, the team has published a paper on slim-panel holographic video displays (see HN November 2020), which claims to overcome many of the problems that have prevented the commercialisation of holographic systems which were first demonstrated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) back in 1990.

Size matters

Existing holographic video devices are limited by the size of their components, both in terms of the physical space required as well as data size. This resulted in either a very narrow viewing angle on a larger display or a larger angle on a miniscule display. The size drawback of video holographic devices was the bulky lens that was required to gather any scattered light from the display’s pixels in order to project a quality image.

To reduce the lens size, the research team used a geometric phase lens, thus saving space and reducing the display to a centimetre of thickness. The new slim-panel holographic video display uses a steering-backlight unit and a holographic video processor to address those issues.

Outside of the chaebol network, the remainder of science research is funded by the government, with research performed by national research institutes and universities.

Prize winning technology

Toward the end of 2020, a hologram technology ETRI developed by South Korean researchers won the top prize at one of the world’s most renowned conferences on display technologies. ETRI – the government-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in Daedeok Innopolis in Daejeon – announced that it had won the top prize at Display Week 2020, an annual event hosted by the Society for Information Display (SID). At the event, ETRI introduced its 1µm pixel pitch Spatial Light Modulator (SLM) panel and 360° tabletop holographic display system.

The use of such a high resolution SLM allows the phase and intensity of the light to be controlled and so allowing hologram images to be displayed without resorting to visual aids.

Larger and colour display

Currently, ETRI is developing a larger panel than what was exhibited in the SID, with the target of producing a 3.1-inch spatial light modulator with 230 million pixels. ETRI announced that it is also working on a colour SLM panel, by which full colour hologram images can be reproduced with just one panel instead of using three.

Both these case studies demonstrate that the commitment shown by government, industry and research institutes to prioritise the budget for science will pay dividends in the long run – even if you can’t always predict where the research will take you.

Also in this issue:

  • When it Comes to Science, South Korea Reaps What it Sows
  • IHMA Highlights Role of Holograms in Battle Against ID Fraud
  • New Anticounterfeiting and Diversion Service Combines QR Codes with Holograms 
  • News in Brief
  • Holograms that Make Smartphones Smarter
  • IHMA Website Gets Makeover
  • Managing Holography Errors in Asphere Metrology
  • Smartphones Make Smarter Holograms
  • WiMi Hologram Cloud in the News
  • META Gets Better with Tunable Laser

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