Ultrafast Camera Takes 70 Trillion Frames per Second

Schematic of single-shot imaging of an ultrashort intense light pulse propagating in a Kerr medium. (Source: Caltech / NPG)

A new ultra­fast camera developed at Caltech could also capture you looking like a dunce with your eyes shut, except instead of taking just one picture in the time it takes you to blink, it could take trillions of pictures. The new camera developed in the lab of Lihong Wang is capable of taking as many as 70 trillion frames per second. That is fast enough to see waves of light traveling and the fluores­cent decay of molecules.

The camera tech­nology, which Wang calls compressed ultra­fast spectral photo­graphy (CUSP), is similar in some respects to previous fast cameras he has built, such as his phase-sensitive compressed ultrafast photo­graphy, or pCUP, device, which can take 1 trillion frames per second of transparent objects and phenomena. CUSP combines a laser that emits extremely short pulses of laser light that last only one quadrillionth of a second with optics and a specialized type of camera. The optics break up indi­vidual femto­second pulses of laser light into a train of even shorter pulses, with each of those pulses capable of producing an image in the camera.

Wang says the technology could open up new avenues of research in fields that include funda­mental physics, next-generation semi­conductor miniaturi­zation, and the life sciences. “We envision appli­cations in a rich variety of extremely fast phenomena, such as ultrashort light propa­gation, wave propa­gation, nuclear fusion, photon transport in clouds and biological tissues, and fluorescent decay of bio­molecules, among other things,” Wang says. (Source: Caltech)

Reference: P. Wang et al.: Single-shot ultrafast imaging attaining 70 trillion frames per second, Nat. Commun. 11, 2091 (2020); DOI: h10.1038/s41467-020-15745-4

Link: Caltech Optical Imaging Laboratory, Dept. of Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA

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