World's Fastest Camera Is Faster Than Light Itself

World's Fastest Camera Is Faster Than Light Itself

You think your camera is fast? Check this out. A group of researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a camera that is way faster than yours. I guarantee it. Their camera captures at a frame rate equivalent to five trillion images per second, a rate faster than previously thought possible. It’s so fast that even captures light in flight.

This speedy camera was developed to be able to capture rapid processes and reactions like those in chemistry, physics, biology, and biomedicine that were never before recorded. To get a feel for how fast that is think of what typical cameras are capable of. High-speed modes on phones and some video cameras can easily capture 120 frames per second. A professional camera built for high speed can reach 10,000 fps. On the even higher end, specially developed cameras for research and highly specialized applications can go up to 250,000 fps. 

Elias Kristensson and Andreas Ehn (Photo: Kennet Ruona)

The researchers at Lund came up with an entirely different and new technology to achieve record speed. The process is based on a unique algorithm that captures several coded images within one image file and then uses a computer to sort them into a video sequence later. This proprietary method involves exposing a rapidly moving or changing subject to a series of laser flashes which are given an individual unique code. Then the pulses of light are separated using their encryption key.

Researchers use “coded” light flashes as a form of encryption. Every time a coded light flash hits the object — for example, a chemical reaction in a burning flame — the object emits an image signal (response) with the exact same coding. All of the image signals are captured in one single photograph. Then a computer separates the signals into individual image frames.

Key applications for this technology will to gain insight into extremely rapid processes that occur in nature that take place on a picosecond and femtosecond scale. For comparison, the number of femtoseconds in one second is significantly larger than the number of seconds in a person’s lifetime. “Explosions, plasma flashes, turbulent combustion, brain activity in animals, and chemical reactions” are examples of  the processes, says Elias Kristensson, a combustion physics researcher. “We are now able to film such extremely short processes. In the long term, the technology can also be used by industry and others.”

Kristensson and his fellow researcher Andreas Ehn spend most of their days studying combustion — an area which is known to be difficult and complicated to study. The ultimate purpose of this basic research is to make next-generation car engines, gas turbines, and boilers cleaner and more fuel efficient. Combustion is controlled by a number of ultra-fast processes at the molecular level, which can now be captured. Their process is called Frequency Recognition Algorithm for Multiple Exposures or FRAME. A German company has already developed a prototype using the technology. 

[via Lund University]

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5 Comments

William Howell's picture

Wow, the Swedes and Germans know something about photography. This is amazing, it's like magic, to be able to slow time like this photographically.

The headline is really inaccurate and incorrect and makes no sense.

Dan Howell's picture

The terminology in the headline comes directly from the researchers who developed the camera and process. I'll stand with their expertise. The camera is capable of recording 5 trillion images per second. The closest other camera develop with an similar but unrelated process claimed 1 trillion.

There was no explanation provided for the headline and to say "I'll stand with their expertise," is a logical fallacy. #clickbait #appealtoauthority

Dan Howell's picture

I differ from your characterization. The third sentence states the frame rate. If you would have taken the bait and clicked on the link at the bottom of the article you would have found that the researchers' findings have been submitted and accepted in a scholarly journal and is open for peer review.