The 2D camera engineers have recently designed is definitely not the easiest concept to understand. Especially when scientists tell you that it captures 100 million frames per second, making it the fastest camera to ever be created, 10 times faster than its predecessor on the throne.
Chances are humanity will not ever travel at speeds faster than the speed of light. But as of now, we can at least watch light travel with our own eyes with the help of this mind-blowing device, even if the rendering is bi-dimensional only.
The imaging device has been made possible by scientists at Washington University in Saint Louis, supervised by Biomedical Engineering PhD Lihong Wang, and sponsored through the National Institute of health. The camera is not bound by on-chip storage and electronic readout speed like most other scientific counterparts, thus giving it a vast versatility and limitless potential in the future of research, be it general physics or even space research. Lihong Wang feels very enthusiastic about this event, saying that it might just be the step that will open up new visions. “Each new technique, especially one of a quantum leap forward, is always followed by a number of new discoveries,” stated the PhD from Washington University.
The way the camera works is based on a new technique known as compressed ultrafast photography – also known as CUP – which is able to capture non-repetitive time-evolving events. The way it differentiates itself from its predecessor is its ability to measure a three dimension scene: two spatial coordinates, the third being time. In addition, similar to regular photography, compressed ultrafast photography does not require specialized active illumination.
But this scientific breakthrough is not the easiest concept to explain, and certainly will not remind of you what we know cameras are in spite of the entire process taking one nanosecond. The imaging device is made up of several sub-devices such as telescopes and microscopes. The special lens takes a photo of an object, sending the photons captured in the image through a digital micro-mirror device (DMD). The DMD is filled with up to a million micro-mirrors that are meant to cypher the image and reflect the photons towards what scientists call a beam splitter. Photons that are sent to the CUP are quicklyconverted into electrons and then “sliced” with double electrodes, effectively converting time to space.
The device is a promising addition to technology and scientists hope to be able to put it to use in biomedicine, forensics and eventually in space exploration.