This new camera is so fast it can capture light traveling through paper. This is now the world’s fastest camera (Photo via Lund University)
A camera that captures 100,000 images per second sounds impressive, but researchers at Lund University in Sweden have created a new camera that blows those numbers out of the water. This new camera can film at a rate equal to 5 trillion images per second. That’s fast enough to film events as fast as 0.2 trillionths of a second. This makes it the world’s fastest camera.
As an example, the team, led by Elias Kristensson, successfully filmed how light travels a certain distance through paper. The three-second video doesn’t seem that exciting at first glance, but when you consider how impossible this would be to capture on slower cameras, it’s a big deal.
So how exactly does this speed demon work? Lund’s camera uses an innovative algorithm and captures coded images in one picture, instead of capturing them one by one in a sequence. From there, it sorts them into a video sequence. This new method exposes what you’re filming to light in the form of laser flashes giving each light pulse a unique code. Later, they are separated using an encryption key.
A camera this fast is clearly not for everyday use. You don’t even need it to capture fast animals, like cheetahs, on film. Rather, the team intends to use the camera for researchers who want to learn about extremely fast processes in nature. It’s ideal for capturing “explosions, plasma flashes, turbulent combustion, brain activity in animals, and chemical reactions.” Combustion is the chemical reaction between a fuel and oxygen, which makes heat. They also think it can be eventually used by others in the industry.
Kristensson points out before this camera, the only way to examine quick events was to photograph stills of the process. They would then try to repeat identical experiments to get more still images, which can later be made into a movie. Not only is this process time consuming, the results aren’t stable since it’s unlikely a process will be similar when repeating the experiment.
Though the team is happy the new camera breaks a record, that’s not what they’re most excited about. What really does it for them is the new ability to film how specific substances change in the same process. One of the first tasks they aim to tackle with the camera is studying the chemistry of plasma discharges, the lifetime of quantum states in combustion environments, and in biological tissue. They are hoping more video results will be available this fall. The team’s long-term goal is to make fuel-burning machines, like boilers, more energy-efficient by studying combustion at every minuscule stage.
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