Here at PopSci we love super-fast cameras and super slow-mo video, so you can imagine our glee when we heard that MIT researchers have built a camera with a visual capture rate of one trillion frames per second. That's fast enough to watch photons travel the length of a one-liter bottle in the video below. In other words, absolutely nothing in the universe looks fast to this camera.
But it's not so simple as pressing "record." The rig is built as a "streak camera," a fairly new innovation in which the aperture of the camera is a narrow slit. Photons enter through the slit and are turned roughly 90 degrees by an electric field, sending them off in a direction perpendicular to the slit. The electric field is quickly changing shape during this time, kicking later-arriving photons toward the sensor with a bit more urgency than earlier-arriving photons.
The result is a frame captured very quickly, but it is only one-dimensional, at least from a spatial standpoint. You have the one dimension that corresponds to the direction of the slit, and a second dimension dictated by the degree of deflection from the electric field. So the second dimension isn't spatial, but time. Visually, that leaves you with a tiny one-dimensional look at a narrow slice of space.
So how do they produce the 2-D video below? (Note: watch the video and they'll explain it.) They take a whole lot of one-dimensional images and then stitch them together. In order to gather one trillion FPS video, you have to be filming an event that is exactly repeatable. That's because in order to create a two-dimensional slow-mo video the researchers have to reposition the camera over and over to build up a complete image of the scene they are filming. To shoot the video of light traveling through a two-liter bottle, the researchers had to collect imagery for an hour and then stitch all the one-dimensional imagery together into a single two-dimensional video using algorithms they developed specifically for this task.
In other words, the world's fastest video camera is also very slow, as it must first accumulate hundreds of thousands of data sets before it can cobble together a short video of a scene like the one seen below. But given that it also lets you witness photons as they move through space, that's a pretty decent tradeoff.
realy refreshing news ! ^^
bored? lets go mine the stars... ^^
So really, the description shouldn't be that its "capturing individual photons moving through space", which any ordinary camera can do, but rather is capturing photon scatter at the timescale of photon motion (i.e the speed of light).
"absolutely nothing in the universe looks fast to this camera." Not my randomly moving hand.
I would like to hear how they account for the photons exhibiting the same properties as a particle and wave.
I wonder if you could combine this technology with a particle collider. Might make for some interesting images.. but I'm no scientist so I don't even know if it's possible.
Why aren't these scientists talking to the scientists at NIF to analyze inertial confinement with this camera array? It would seem perfect
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I wonder, is there are any benefits here in the research of sensitive systems for meteorological science, such as tornado early warning systems?????? Additive systems to existing and evolving radar systems that follow tracking to possible tornado condition environments when they occur.
I'm a little confused at how it takes 1 dimensional photos? I was pretty sure we're in the third dimension and while we can proxy the second with "flat" surfaces, I don't understand how we could even begin to imagine the first?
Correct me if I'm wrong because I am very confused about this..
Shakouhousha, what they mean by one dimensional is a similar concept to CRT TV scanlines. The camera essentially takes one scanline worth of a picture at any given time. They move the mirror to allow the camera to pick up a different part of the subject for the next scanline. They say they need repeatable events because they have to repeat the process many, many times to assemble a single still image.
This isn't quite what they say it is... I know that from good sources.
And it technically neither is a 'Trillion' 'Frames' per second, more like Trillion scan lines with 5 cameras that are out of sync adding up to a mighty high frame rate, but seeing at the speed of light??? Nope sorry...
oh ....i would like to hear how they account for the photons exhibiting the same properties as a particle and wave.
"oh ....i would like to hear how they account for the photons exhibiting the same properties as a particle and wave."
I think that's outside the scope of their project. That said, light acting as both particle and wave isn't really a big mystery in physics..
This is awesome! There are so many applications for this new technology! Medical imaging would really benefit from this marvel! So much more would be able to be understood as to how diseases spread within the body and what exactly is going on during that process. This is the major stepping stone which would help us to figure out how to stop that spread as we would then know exactly what's going on!