High speed Japanese camera can take 1 trillion frames a second

Japanese engineers have produced a high-speed camera that can record events at more than one trillion frames per second.

It is so sensitive it can capture waves of atoms excited by a laser pulse and travelling through a crystal lattice at 45,000 kilometres per second.

The camera, called STAMP, for Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography, is more than 1,000 times faster than conventional high-speed cameras.

The technology “holds great promise for studying a diverse range of previously unexplored complex ultrafast phenomena”, said Keiichi Nakagawa, a research fellow at the University of Tokyo, who worked to develop the camera.

“Many physical and biological phenomena are difficult to reproduce,” said Nakagawa. “This inspired me to work on an ultrafast camera that could take multiple frames in a single shot.”

Conventional high-speed cameras are limited by the processing speed of their mechanical and electrical components. STAMP overcomes these limitations by using only fast, optical components.

STAMP relies on a property of light called dispersion that can be observed in the way a misty sky splits sunshine into a rainbow of colours. Similarly, STAMP splits an ultrashort pulse of light into a barrage of different coloured flashes that hit the imaged object in rapid-fire succession. Each separate colour flash can then be analysed to string together a moving picture of what the object looked like over the time it took the dispersed light pulse to travel through the device.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

Read science facts, not fiction...

There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.