The junction between innovations in nonlinear optics and imaging has produced highly efficient methods to analyze the dynamic phenomena in biology and physics. However, experiments performed in life sciences can finish before some of the fastest cameras can capture the process and results.
In order to recognize the potential of the above methods, there must be a way to record images in a single exposure. Since no camera was capable, researchers at the California Institute of Technology built a faster camera.
Laser Research Leads to T-CUP
While researching advanced lasers, experts developed a technique called temporal focusing. Laser pulses could be fired over extremely short periods of time, but the existing cameras were too slow to study them. Researchers had to run the same experiment over and over until compressed ultrafast photography cameras could collect enough frames to string together a complete video.
Scientists developed a technology they call single-shot 10 trillion-frame-per-second compressed ultrafast photography (T-CUP). It’s 100 times faster than the previous recording method. Before the T-CUP, the fastest cameras in the world had framerates of around one-one-hundred-billionth of a second. In that amount of time, a beam of light could only travel the length of a sesame seed.
How T-CUP Works
T-CUP combines movie data with data from a still image. T-CUP splits the image of the laser into two devices: a motion recorder and a camera that makes a single exposure of the scene. The still camera creates a single, smeared shot of the laser’s whole motion with a 100-femtosecond frame rate (one quadrillionth of a second), and the video camera captures the scene at what it’s able to capture.
Computer software then combines the data from the two cameras. It uses the data from the smeared image to fill in the gaps in the video. This results in a 450x150 pixel video that lasts for 350 frames. T-CUP can detail a light pulse’s shape, intensity, and angle of inclination.
How Life Sciences Will Benefit from T-CUP
T-CUP makes it possible to analyze the interactions between light and matter at an unparalleled temporal resolution. T-CUP will be able to power a new generation of microscopes used for biomedical, materials science, and other life sciences applications.
With a camera that can freeze time at a rate of 10 trillion frames-per-second in low-light conditions, scientists will be able to observe biological processes and the effect of drugs with unprecedented clarity.
Researchers also believe it will be possible to increase the speed of T-CUP technology to one quadrillion frames-per-second. Speeds like that will offer even further insight into the currently undetectable secrets of interactions between light and matter.
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