Japanese scientists have invented the world’s fastest motion picture camera that captures 4.4 trillion frames per second. For Apple’s iPhone, which takes around 120 frames per second, it would take more than 1161 years to capture as many frames as STAMP cam does in the time it takes for you to click your fingers.
The device dubbed Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography (STAMP) features an innovative technique to take high-speed images so it can capture chemical reactions and heat conduction, which were impossible to photograph before.
Previously, the fastest camera made about 1 trillion frames per second. At that speed, you can actually begin to see the movement of light as it refracts and scatters through an object, such as a plastic bottle.
It was also using a “pump-probe” method, which involved “pumping” light into an object in order to photograph it. Researchers, however, claimed that this technique had numerous downsides.
“High-speed photography is a powerful tool for studying fast dynamics in photochemistry, spintronics, phononics, fluidics and plasma physics,” explains work of the team of researchers from Keio University and the University of Tokyo, published in the Nature Photonics.
“Currently, the pump-probe method is the gold standard for time-resolved imaging, but it requires repetetive measurements for image construction and therefore falls short in probing non-repetitive or difficult-to-reproduce events.”
Instead, the new camera uses a technique called motion-based femtophotography to capture movement. Typically, a high-speed camera sends out light to an object and probes for the light to produce an image. This process is known as repetitive measurement.
The camera visually maps the movement of an object over time in a ‘burst stream’ of timed photographs organised in the correct sequence, to show an object’s ‘time varying spatial profile,’ according to the journal Nature Photonics.
“We present a motion-picture camera that performs single-shot burst image acquisition without the need for repetitive measurements, yet with equally short frame intervals and high pixel resolution,” the summary said.
The makers of STAMP also hope to increase the device’s resolution of 450 x 450 pixels (which is a lot for a camera of this type) with some future improvements as well. Still that pixel density is rather impressive, given that most cameras capable of such frame rates are used to capture minute, almost abstract, fast-occurring processes.
Keisuke Goda, a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Tokyo and a member of the research team, told the Journal that the camera has been in development for three years. But there’s still work to be done, as the 12 scientists work to shrink the device—currently about one square meter—for more practical uses, including auto and semiconductor factories and the medical sector.
“It is a promising invention because these cameras can be utilized in various fields,” Goda told the o The Wall Street Journal.
For scientists and the public though the camera will mean new insight into all sorts of processes that are hidden simply from sight simply because they operate at a time frame so extreme that it feels like a different dimension.