They invent a camera capable of freezing the movement of light

Researchers from the French INRS and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have presented T-CUP, the fastest camera in the world, capable of capturing 10 trillion frames per second.

“This new camera literally allows us to freeze time to see phenomena, and even light, in extremely slow motion, ” the INRS (Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique) said in a statement.

In recent years, the union between innovations in non-linear optics and image has opened the door to new highly efficient methods for the microscopic analysis of dynamic phenomena in biology and physics . But taking advantage of the potential of these methods requires a way to record images in real time with a very short temporal resolution, in a single exposure.

Using current imaging techniques, measurements taken with ultrashort laser pulses should be repeated many times, which is appropriate for some types of inert samples, but impossible for others more fragile. For example, laser-etched glass can tolerate a single laser pulse, leaving less than one picosecond to capture the results. In this case, the imaging technique must be able to capture the entire process in real time.

The speed photography compressed (CUP) was a good starting point. At 100,000 million frames per second, this method approached, but did not meet, the specifications required to integrate the femtosecond lasers. To improve the concept, the new T-CUP system was developed from a femtosecond burst chamber that also incorporates a type of data acquisition used in applications such as tomography. This achievement is presented in the magazine ‘Light: Science & Applications’.

“We knew that by using just one femtosecond gust camera, the quality of the image would be limited,” says Professor Lihong Wang, professor of electrical engineering at Caltech and director of Caltech’s Optical Imaging Laboratory (COIL). “To improve this, we added another camera that acquires a static image, combined with the image acquired by the femtosecond strip camera, we can use what is called radon transformation to obtain high quality images while recording ten billion frames per second. . “

By establishing the world record speed of real-time images , T-CUP can promote a new generation of microscopes for biomedical, materials science and other applications. This camera represents a fundamental change that allows us to analyze the interactions between light and matter in an unparalleled temporal resolution.

The first time it was used, the ultra-fast camera broke new ground by capturing the time focus of a single femtosecond laser pulse in real time . This process was recorded in 25 frames taken at an interval of 400 femtoseconds and details the shape, intensity and angle of inclination of the light pulse.“It is an achievement in itself”, says Jinyang Liang, the main author of this work, who was a COIL engineer when the research was carried out, “but we already see possibilities to increase the speed up to one trillion frames per second”. Surely, speeds like that will offer a glimpse into the still undetectable secrets of the interactions between light and matter.