MIT Researchers Develop Camera to Capture Trillion-Frame-Per-Second Video

December 14, 2011, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

If you thought you couldn’t watch light travel, you are wrong. MIT brains have created a system through which you can see light travel in slow-motion. Curious? Then read on.

MIT researchers have created an imaging system, using which visual data at the rate of one trillion exposures per second could be captured. (Shutterbugs must be reading with their mouths open!)

Using this novel system, they have acquired the slow-motion video of a burst of light traveling the length of a one-litre bottle, bouncing off the cap and then reflecting back to the bottle’s bottom. This is a big breakthrough in the scientific world, opening immense possibilities with its use.

Media Lab postdoc Andreas Velten, who is one of the system’s developers, claims it to be the ‘ultimate’ in slow motion. The technology they used in the system is called streak camera, which doesn’t work like any of the camera you might possess (nor of the same size!).

The streak camera’s aperture is narrow and photons (particles of light) enter through this slit and travels through an electric field which causes them to deflect in a direction perpendicular to the slit. The electric field changes rapidly, hence photons that arrive late are deflected more than the early birds.

Thus, in effect, a two-dimensional image is got. But only the dimension that corresponds to the direction of the slit is spatial. The other one corresponds to the degree of deflection that is time.

This technology, where the light particles that are traveling could be traced, can prove to be instrumental in medical science as well as other branches of chemistry.

But of course, only after more research and fine tuning of the system can we possibly see the technology in use widely.

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