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The device has been developed for biomedical purposes
Researchers at the Washington University in St. Louis have built what’s apparently the fastest (retrieve-only) 2D camera capable of shooting images at up to 100 billion frames per second. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
The camera was developed by a team of biomedical engineers in order to assist with applications in biomedicine (obviously) but also in astronomy and forensics. The research has been published in the December issue of prestigious scientific journal Nature.
To achieve this kind of speed, the camera uses a technique called Compressed Ultrafast Photography (CUP). To compare, “average” receive-only cameras can image at a speed of around 10 million frames per second, because of the limitations imposed by on-chip storage and electronic readout speed.
The camera setup is a little bit complicated consisting of different things like a microscope and telescope paired up with lenses to capture the events of interest. Everything revolves around the so-called “streak camera” which is a super-fast device used to measure intensity variation of a pulse of light over time.
But a streak camera can only record in one dimension, so the team had to add a bunch of algorithms in order to allow the camera to shoot two-dimensionally.
Once photons are captured by the lens, they are sent through a long tube to a digital micromirror device (coin-sized) taking advantage of around a million micromirrors.
They are in charge of encoding the image and then reflecting the beams to a beam splitter that shoots the photos directly to the streak’s camera slit.
It’s here that the photos are converted to electrons and then sheared by two electrodes to covert time into space.
The electrodes basically apply a varying voltage making the electrons arrive at different times and vertical position. Then all the resulting info is sent to the Charge Coupled Device where it is analyzed and sent to a computer where an image is processed out using computational imaging.
As we mentioned above, the world’s fastest 2D camera will be put to use in biomedicine. For example, it will help with the imaging of fluorescent proteins.
But this application might not sound too interesting for the general population. However, there are more appealing scenarios like the fact that CUP has a potential to be used in retrospect bullet pathways, might re-open unsolved murder cases like President Kennedy’s assassination.
The theory goes that the bullet which hit Kennedy in the back and exited through his throat was also the same that killed Texas Governor John Connally who was seated in front of him.
But conspiracy theorists say the bullet trajectory has been wrongly interpreted by claiming that a single bullet could not have passed through 15 inches / 38 cm layers of clothing, seven layers of skin, 15 inches of tissues, a necktie knot, a radius bone, while removing 4 inches / 10 cm of bones while still remaining in the victim’s tract.
The answer to this mystery is that a second bullet might have been involved, a theory known as the “magic-bullet.” And it is believed the world’s fastest camera might help determine whether this is the case or not.
But even if CUP will not go on to serve this purpose, the technique still constitutes a “quantum leap” forward that will aid with new discoveries.