New video camera captures 5 trillion frames every second

High-speed filming could offer view of rapid chemistry, physics phenomena

frames of particles of light

SPEEDSTER  A video camera that can film the equivalent of 5 trillion images every second reaches such speeds with the help of an algorithm, capturing the movement of light particles (orange ball). 

Courtesy of Elias Kristensson/Lund University 

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A new video camera, the fastest by far, has set a staggering speed record. It films 5 trillion frames (equivalent to 5 trillion still images) every second, blowing away the 100,000 frames per second of high-speed commercial cameras. The device could offer a peek at never-before-seen phenomena, such as the blazingly fast chemical reactions that drive explosions or combustion.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden demonstrated the camera’s speediness by filming particles of light traveling a distance as thin as a sheet of paper, then slowing down the trillionth-of-a-second journey to watch it.

UNPACKING TIME Here, the algorithm has decoded the movement of a group of light particles (orange ball) from one image into four, spanning three trillionths of a second. Courtesy of Elias Kristensson/Lund University 

The gadget works by repeatedly flashing a laser at a subject, with each flash getting a unique code. The subject reflects the flashes, and those reflections are combined into a single image. Then, an algorithm separates the image into a video sequence based on the codes, the scientists report March 15 in Light: Science & Applications. A German company is developing the camera for laboratory use. It could be ready in about two years.

SPEED DEMON A new high-speed camera caught light particles on the move. In this video, the particles (orange ball) travel about a tenth of a millimeter, the thickness of a piece of paper. The speed shown is a trillion times slower than the time it takes for the actual event to happen. Lund University

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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