Japanese researchers won’t miss another baby’s smile or lightning strike after developing a camera that snaps at a reported 4.4 trillion frames per second, claiming it to be the world’s fastest camera.
The technique, known as a Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography, or STAMP for short, shuns the conventional methods employed by other superspeed cameras to achieve results up to 1,000 times faster than has been previously available. The current leading brand of high-speed real-time recording is a method unfortunately known as the pump-probe process, where light is “pumped” at the subject and then “probed” for absorption. STAMP differs from this by skipping the need to constantly probe, or measure, the scene to construct an image, instead it uses single-shot bursts to acquire images and maps the spatial profile of the subject to the temporal profile at a 450×450-pixel resolution.
That pixel density is actually impressive, given that most cameras capable of such frame rates are used to capture minute, almost abstract, fast-occurring processes. The STAMP has been proposed to improve the study of chemical reactions and heat conduction, which travels around six times slower than the speed of light. The teams, split between Keio University and the University of Tokyo, have been working on a STAMP camera for the past three years, and hope to continue to do so now that their findings have been made public — being published in Nature Photonics on Sunday 10 August.
The teams hope to improve the resolution and fidelity of captured shots, making the device useful in manufacturing fields that use laser cutting. The camera could detect and allow the laser to correct cuttings as they are being performed — a process that could be useful in several medical applications, too. The team also plans to shrink the camera, given that the current prototype stands at around a metre squared.
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