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World's Fastest Camera Captures Speed Of Light In Slow Motion

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Scientists were able to capture the speed of light using the fastest camera in the world. YouTubers collaborated with experts to record light as it travels through a milk bottle in slow motion.  ( The Slow Mo Guys | YouTube )

The speed of light is often used to describe anything that is ultrafast, rendering it impossible for humans to capture its motion. Now, researchers are able to capture the elusive object in slow motion using the world's fastest camera.

YouTubers The Slow Mo Guys teamed up with optical scientists from California Institute of Technology to demonstrate how light actually travels from one point to another. They showcased such feat by recording a laser beam passing through a milk bottle at about 100 billion frames per second.

After the capture, Peng Wang, a postdoctoral student at Caltech demonstrated how photons vividly motioned through the bottle like a blue slime from the left to the right. The molecules of the milk aided in scattering the laser beam across. Wang said the light in this experiment traveled in approximately 2,000 picoseconds.

The remarkable thing is such measurement is just a fraction of what the amazing camera can capture. Caltech researchers reported that this camera can record objects at about 10 trillion frames per second in a single-shot.

Excellent Capture With T-CUP

The amazing camera, dubbed as the world's fastest, is called T-CUP. In a 2018 paper, scientists described it as a "single-shot real-time femtosecond imaging of temporal focusing." The researchers said that while techniques to capture ultrafast objects do exist, these require multiple shots that rely of precise repetition during temporal or spatial scanning. Such criterion limits people in cases when temporal focusing must be captured in a single measurement.

"We have developed single-shot 10-trillion-frame-per-second compressed ultrafast photography (T-CUP), which passively captures dynamic events with 100-fs frame intervals in a single camera exposure," the researchers wrote.

Comparing T-CUP With Typical Cameras

T-CUP is a streak camera, which captures images in a single dimension in an unbelievably swift manner. Phone cameras record two-dimensional photographs.

While T-CUP is categorized under streak cameras, it still stands out among the rest. Typical streak cameras develop light images by capturing varied horizontal planes of laser over numerous laser pulses. T-CUP can create an image by developing an entire laser pulse in a single frame. The technique is to divert the laser beam to two different cameras at the same time, and then use a computer program to put together the two images.

Lihong Wang, Caltech professor and one of the camera's makers, said scientists may one day develop a camera that can capture images at 1 quadrillion frames per second. This could pave the way for experts to be able to observe the human tissues, including the brain, in very precise detail.

The original paper for this research was published in the journal Light: Science and Applications.

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