A light pulse in slo-mo

If shown in real-time this video would last just 33-trillionths of a second – and, no, it’s not a screen-grab for some sort of ultra-fast remake of the old television screen game, Pong.

The footage shows a light pulse – the red blob – travelling through a transparent solid. The dashed line indicates the edge of the medium, after which the pulse continues, invisibly, though the air until it hits a mirror – the solid yellow line – and bounces back.

The little clip, just 33 picoseconds long, demonstrates a new high-speed filming and image storage approach that can capture almost four trillion images per second – easily fast enough to catch molecules interaction.

The new system is the work of researchers led by photonics specialist Feng Chen of the Xi’an Jiaotong University in China and trumps the previous fastest available system, which captured a comparatively measly one trillion images a second.

The work of Chen and his colleagues is reported in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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