Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fastest ever camera captures light in a flash

Photographers normally use a flash to freeze quick-moving subjects, but now a team at MIT have created a camera so fast that it can video a flash of light itself.
The camera records one trillion exposures per second, enough to capture a pulse of light passing through a bottle in slow-motion. Its narrow-slit aperture can only capture a thin line of each scene in one go, but combining the camera with a revolving mirror system allows it to record multiple lines and build up a full picture.
This unusual requirement means the camera is only suitable for capturing scenes in which the same action is repeated over and over, hence the carefully-timed light pulses seen in the video above. The light passes through the bottle in a nanosecond but it takes an hour to build up enough image data, which is then stitched together to produce the final video. Ramesh Raskar, who worked on the system, calls it "the world's slowest fastest camera."
As such, the new technique is unlikely to find its way into consumer cameras. But it could be used for medical and industrial imaging, since capturing a single pulse of light lets you watch how it scatters off different objects and reveals information about a material's properties.

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