Slow-motion cameras can capture bullets as they zoom by, but what if you could get a film of light beams?
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Media Lab postdoc Andreas Velten and his colleagues, professor Ramesh Raskar and Moungi Bawendi, a professor of chemistry, have developed a camera that does just that. The camera can hit a trillion frames per second, which is fast enough to catch light scattering in a bottle. To date, the fastest cameras have hit the billion-frames-per-second range.
The camera is based on imaging technology called a streak camera, which is used commonly in chemistry. But this camera, which is very different from any digital camera you or I have seen, uses a laser and a range of precise engineering and optical techniques to snap thousands of images. Instead of a round lens, it has a slit, where light passes through and encounters an electric field that's changing rapidly. Because the field is shifting fast, it deflects the light particles, or photons. A sensor inside the camera captures the photons one slit a time. Every slice of photons is then combined into one longer video.
So what practical uses are there? Raskar said in the MIT release that this kind of camera could be used in industrial areas to image flaws in surfaces that need to be precisely engineered and perhaps even in the future, it could be used in commercial film making. Watch the video below for more explanation and to see the slow motion light traveling through the bottle.
Image: John Rensten/Getty Image