Scientists from the California Institute of Technology have invented an ultra-high-speed camera that can shoot video at up to 1 trillion frames per second, whose subjects are transparent objects. The principle of operation of this camera is called phase-sensitive compressed ultrafast photography (pCUP) and it is a further development of the principle of shooting, developed about a decade ago and used to capture the movement of light in slow motion.

The combination of pCUP technology with the technology of so-called contrast phase microscopy allows the camera to record not only transparent objects with the highest speed, it is capable of recording “ephemeral” phenomena, such as the propagation of shock waves in a gas medium and inside crystals, the passage of signals through neurons of nerve tissues and much another. Contrast phase microscopy was developed specifically to improve the quality of imaging of transparent and translucent objects, such as living cells.

To store the data received by the new ultra-high-speed camera, the ultra-high-speed encoding and compression technology LLE-CUP was developed, which eliminates data loss and quality. This technology takes one single reference picture and then describes all the movement captured during the shooting time.

After capturing the reference image, the LLE-CUP technology is so fast that it allows you to capture the light propagation process, which is impossible for other, lower-speed methods for capturing and encoding data. As a demonstration of the possibilities of all this, scientists took off the process of propagation of a shock wave in water and the propagation of a laser light pulse along a part of a transparent material.

Super speed pCUP camera

Note that this technology is still at the very early stage of its development, nevertheless, it is already capable of bringing enormous benefits in some areas of science, including physics, chemistry and biology. The pCUP camera will allow scientists to see in real time the propagation of signals and communication between neurons, the propagation of the flame front in the engine’s combustion chamber, and much more.