We’ve Just Invented the World’s Fastest Camera
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We’ve Just Invented the World’s Fastest Camera

Our scientific world is both expanding and
getting more precise every day. We’re pushing the boundaries of what we’d
ever thought possible…but that means the way we measure that science has to keep getting
more precise too. Are we ever going to hit the limit of what
we can see…and therefore what we can discover? Well, new research has now given us the world’s
fastest camera–so that’s a step in the right direction. Hashtag ‘no filter’. To give you the whole picture, back in the
1920’s a pioneering electrical engineer named Harold Edgerton made history when he
was able to capture images of things that happened on the microsecond scale–that’s
one-millionth of a second Flash forward to today, and we’ve moved
beyond the microsecond. Many research facilities around the world
want to explore stuff that’s happening in the femtosecond range. That’s a quadrillionth of a second. Literally millionths of a billionth of a second. What kind of things happen that fast? Well for one, LASERS. Lasers that fire femtosecond pulses can help
us explore the tiny nooks and crannies of our universe. They’re being used in materials processing,
to fabricate micromachines and biochips. Ultrafast pulse lasers have enabled fields
like biophotonics, which let us image the function of live tissues in 3D–which has
helped us expand our understanding of the physical function of the human brain. And these kinds of laser pulses are essential
for photochemistry and photobiology, fields that let us see natural reactions on a molecular
level. So the ultrafast laser equals ultrasmall imaging scale. BUT the problem here is that it is so freaking
hard to get a picture of what’s happening at the femtosecond speed, you guys. It’s REAL snappy. Until now, the best way we’ve had to image
the interactions that happen anywhere even close to this pace are what are called ‘streak
cameras’. You have to capture multiple pulses over a
period of time to create what is basically a stop motion video of the interaction. It’s not the most accurate picture of what’s
happening and in some experiments, the material is too fragile to fire the laser at it multiple
times. You ONLY get to fire the laser once. So how do you take a picture? If you’re the researchers in this experiment,
you make a hybrid. This new technology is called single-shot
10-trillion-frame-per-second compressed ultrafast photography–or T-CUP for short. It combines a version of the typical streak
camera with a static camera and then uses a mathematical technique called radon transformation
 to yield images of the laser-material interaction at a resolution of–as the name state–a trillion
frames per second. Which is a heck of a lot more accurate than
previous attempts. This new camera system can combine the frames
it captures to make a movie where we can actually see the movement of light. This camera is basically like recording in
1080HD after only being able to look at something in gif quality. And the team’s not done yet! They have plans to keep increasing the precision
of this camera, hoping to get the resolution all the way to a quadrillion frames per second. This is the fastest camera ever created, capturing
the behavior of a femtosecond long laser pulse passing through glass, fast enough to image
nanoscale interaction between the laser and the matter. And see how it takes a pretty long time to
pass through the beam splitter in the middle? That’s something we’ve never been able
to visually see before, and that’s really important to experimental design and function
of laser systems. Frame by frame, we are getting closer to being
able to actually see the tiny details of the world. This new level of insight will allow us to
ask new questions–both about the light itself and everything it helps us see. My favorite thing that can be imaged at the
molecular level is photosynthesis. Using femtosecond laser pulses, we can generate
X-rays that help us see INSIDE cells, down to the individual proteins that act in photosynthesis…some
of this process is actually still a mystery that we’re trying to uncover. Make sure to subscribe to Seeker for more
groundbreaking discoveries like this, and thanks for watching.


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