The world’s fastest 2D camera has been developed by the researchers at Washington University in St.Louis and it is able to capture images at the rate of 100 billion frames per second. The researchers were able to capture many photos of a number of properties of light propagation and behavior which are already pushing the dimensional limits of fundamental physics using this technique called Compresses Ultrafast Photography (CUP).
This camera can photograph a photon of light in flight and convert what it sees into a 2D image on a computer. The camera is being used to study invisibility cloaks. The lead researcher Lihong Wang commented that for the first time, humans could see light pulses on the fly. Wang and his colleagues hope that their innovation may be helpful in new scientific discoveries, especially in the field of astronomy, forensics and biomedicine.
The camera has advanced imaging frame which could be used to analyze activity occurring in supernovas which are light years away from the earth, capture the movement of thousands of pieces of space junk moving around our atmosphere or even detect diseases.
The CUP system is centered on this existing technology known as streak camera which is an ultrafast detection device which measures variation in intensity of a measured light pulse over time. The setback was that streak cameras recorded only in one dimension. So, the researchers configured new control algorithms and added some extra components of their own and expanded this into 2 dimensions.
When the lens captures the photons it sends them through a long tube to a digital micromirror device with about a million micromirrors on board. These micromirrors encode the image and reflect the beam to a beam splitter which in turn shoots the photos into the streak camera’s slit. Then the photons are converted into electrons and sheared with electrodes in order to convert time into space 2D. The voltage of the electrodes increases and the electrons arrive at different times and end up in different positions. This data is later stored in a charge-coupled device and sent to a computer and processes into an image using computational imaging.
This technology is quite complex but truly impressive. Before, cameras could record roughly a billion frames per second only in one dimension. So, one could measure space or time, never both. Also, it was slower. Other cameras would require an even to occur many times continuously in order to record them. For example, you would have to blast a laser again and again to get something useful.
This breakthrough could be used to watch optical communications, quantum phenomena and also to image body processes which are too fast to see through other cameras. Also, it could be used in conjunction with a telescope to watch things in space.