TechAlert: MIT’s Trillion Frames Per Second Light-tracking Camera

                       Screen shot 2011-12-13 at 1.04.26 PM

A camera capable of visualizing the movement of light has been unveiled by a team of MIT scientists. The equipment captures images at a rate of roughly a trillion frames per second – or about 40 billion times faster than a standard HD camera.

Direct recording of light is impossible at that speed, so the camera takes millions of repeated scans to recreate each image. The process has been dubbed femto-photography and has been detailed on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab's website.

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera," said Andrea Velten, one of the researchers involved in the project. To create the technique, the scientists adapted a "streak tube" – equipment used to take data readings from light pulses that works in a similar fashion to the way pictures are created on traditional television cathode ray tubes, scanning one thin horizontal line at a time. Since each image is only equivalent to one scan line on the television set, many hundred scans had to be taken to create a single frame.

The scientists did this by repeating each shot, angling the camera's view with mirrors to record a different scan line of the object –a technique suitable for capturing an event that can be recreated exactly the same way multiple times.

In addition to revealing new ways of seeing the world, the MIT scientists say the process could analyze faults and material properties, scientific imaging for understanding ultrafast processes and medical imaging to reconstruct sub-surface elements –"'ultrasound with light."

Image at top of page shows light 'scattering' below the surfaces of solid objects, such as the tomato depicted here.

The Daily Galaxy via MIT News

Image credit: Di Wu and Andreas Velten, MIT Media Lab


"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily