An innovative camera capable of capturing an astounding 4.8 million frames per second has been developed by Canadian scientists. What sets this camera apart from its commercial counterparts is not just its remarkable speed but also its significantly lower cost, thanks to the utilization of off-the-shelf components. This achievement is detailed in a study published in the journal Optica.

The primary objective of this research was to devise a cost-effective means of capturing clear images of ultrafast movements, such as falling water droplets and molecular interactions, which typically require expensive camera equipment exceeding $100,000 in cost.

Compressed ultrafast photography — CUP. (Image: Dr. Jinyang Liang)

The research team, composed of experts from the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), Concordia University in Canada, and Meta Platforms Inc., introduced the diffraction-gated, real-time ultrahigh-speed mapping (DRUM) camera. This camera can capture dynamic events in a single exposure at a remarkable 4.8 million frames per second.

The key breakthrough enabling this extraordinary speed is the “time-gating” method known as time-varying optical diffraction. In essence, this technique controls when light reaches the sensor by rapidly opening and closing a gate multiple times before capturing the image. Dr. Jinyang Liang, an Assistant Professor at INRS, conceived this method by leveraging the space-time duality of light.

Xianglei Liu and Jinyang Liang working on the optical setup. (Image: Xianglei Liu and Jinyang Liang, Institut national de la recherche scientifique)

The construction of the camera relies on digital micromirror devices (DMDs), commonly used in projectors, in an unconventional way. DMDs, being mass-produced and requiring no mechanical movement, contribute to the camera’s cost-efficiency and stability.

The applications of the DRUM camera are vast, including real-time drug delivery monitoring and hazard detection for driverless cars using high-speed lidar systems. Moreover, the camera’s potential extends to biomedicine, automation-enabling technologies, nano-surgeries, and laser-based cleaning applications.

Dr. Liang envisions that DRUM photography could revolutionize various fields with its exceptional imaging capabilities, delivering high-speed performance at a fraction of the cost of existing ultrafast cameras.

Filed in Photo-Video. Read more about and .

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