If you activate a laser, it seems that its beam of light appears suddenly. The same happens if you press a switch in a room: suddenly, the whole room seems illuminated at the same time. But this is not the case, it seems to us because photons are fired at such a speed that our eye is unable to grasp the process completely.
Now, researchers from Caltech (USA) and the University of Quebec (Canada) have invented the camera that stops time: it is capable of making 10 trillion shots per second, enough to record images of a pulse of light while traveling through space.
The extraordinary camera is the fastest in the world, more than twice the number developed in 2015 capable of capturing 4.4 billion photos per second. It is based, according to a study published in Light: Science & Applications, in a technology called ultrafast compressed photography (CUP): it captures 100 billion frames per second, but combined with another static image camera, the researchers were able to reconstruct 10 billion of frames.
“We knew that by using only one femtosecond lightning camera, the quality of the image would be limited,” says Professor Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical and Medial Engineering at Caltech and Director of Caltech’s Optical Imaging Laboratory (COIL). “So to improve this, we added another camera that acquires a static image.” Combined with the image acquired by the femtosecond gust camera, we can use what’s called a radon transformation to get high-quality images while recording ten billions of frames per second. “
Setting the world record for real-time image speed, T-CUP can power a new generation of microscopes for biomedical, materials science and other applications. This camera represents a fundamental change that allows us to analyze the interactions between light and matter in an unparalleled temporal resolution.
The first time it was used, the ultrafast camera broke new ground by capturing the time focus of a single femtosecond laser pulse in real time (Fig. 2). This process was recorded in 25 frames taken at an interval of 400 femtoseconds and details the shape, intensity and angle of inclination of the light pulse (see image on the left).
“It is an achievement in itself”, says Jinyang Liang, the main author of this work, who was an engineer at COIL when the research was carried out, “but we already see possibilities to increase the speed up to a trillion frames (1015) Per second! “Speeds like that ensure a glimpse of the still undetectable secrets of the interactions between light and matter.