This camera captures 156.3 trillion frames per second

Scientists have created a blazing-fast scientific camera that captures images at an encoding rate of 156.3 terahertz (THz) to individual pixels—the equivalent of 156.3 trillion frames per second. The research-grade camera, called SCARF (swept coded aperture real-time femtophotography), could lead to breakthroughs in the field of studying micro-events that come and go too quickly for today’s most expensive scientific sensors.

SCARF has successfully captured ultrafast phenomena such as absorption in a semiconductor and demagnetization of a metal alloy. The research could open new frontiers in fields as diverse as the mechanics of shock waves or the development of more effective medicine.

He led the research team Professor Jinyang Liang of the Canadian National Institute of Science (INRS). He is a world-renowned pioneer in the field of ultra-high-speed photography based on his breakthroughs from a separate study he conducted six years ago. It was a current investigation has been published in Nature, summarized In a press release from INRS and first informed by Journal of Science.

Professor Liang and company adapted their research as a new approach to ultrafast cameras. Typically, these systems use a sequential approach: capture frames one at a time and slice them together to observe moving objects. However, this approach has limitations. “For example, phenomena such as femtosecond laser ablation, shock wave interaction with living cells, and optical chaos cannot be studied this way,” Liang said.

The components of the research-grade camera are spread across a series of scientific tables.The components of the research-grade camera are spread across a series of scientific tables.

SCARF (Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique)

The new camera builds on Liang’s previous research to improve traditional ultrafast camera logic. “SCARF overcomes these challenges,” INRS communications officer Julie Robert said in a statement. “Its imaging method allows ultrafast removal of the static coded aperture without interrupting the ultrafast phenomenon. This enables fully sequential encoding rates of up to 156.3 THz per individual pixel in a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera. These results can be achieved in one shot at adjustable frame rates and spatial scales in both reflection and transmission modes.

In extremely simplified terms, this means that the camera uses computational imaging to capture spatial information by allowing light to hit its sensor at slightly different times. Not having to process spatial data at this time is part of what frees the camera to shoot these extremely fast “chirping” laser pulses up to 156.3 trillion times per second. The raw data from the images can then be processed by a computer algorithm that decodes the time-phased inputs, turning each of the trillions of frames into a complete image.

Interestingly, he did this “using off-the-shelf and passive optical components,” as the paper describes. The team describes SCARF as low-cost with low power consumption and high measurement quality compared to existing techniques.

Although SCARF is focused more on research than on consumers, the team is already working with two companies, Axis Photonique and Few-Cycle, to possibly develop commercial versions for their peers at other higher education or scientific institutions.

For a more technical explanation of the camera and its potential applications, you can see the full document Nature.

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