Debut for world's fastest camera
By Jason Palmer
Science and technology reporter, BBC News
The technique hinges on an ordered spreading of the colours in laser light
The fastest imaging system ever devised has been demonstrated by researchers reporting in the journal Nature.
Their camera snaps images less than a half a billionth of a second long, capturing over six million of them in a second continuously.
It works by using a fast laser pulse dispersed in space and then stretched in time and detected electronically.
The approach will be instrumental in analysing, for example, flowing blood samples in a search for diseased cells.
What is more, the camera works with just one detector, rather than the millions in a typical digital camera.
Dubbed Serial Time-Encoded Amplified imaging, or Steam, the technique depends on carefully manipulating so-called "supercontinuum" laser pulses.
These pulses, less than a millionth of a millionth of a second long, contain an enormously broad range of colours.
Two optical elements spread the pinprick laser pulses into an ordered two-dimensional array of colours.
It is this "2-D rainbow" that illuminates a sample. Part of the rainbow is reflected by the sample - depending on light and dark areas of the illuminated spot - and the reflections travel back along their initial path.
Continued at the BBC...