Fast enough for you? Light-speed camera records 100 billion frames per second

camera 100 billion fps lle cup art landscape
Jinyang Liang and Lihong V. Wang
You’re almost certainly familiar with the principle of shooting slow-motion video: the more frames you record per second of filming, the longer it runs (and therefore the slower it is) when you play it back.

While we’ve been seeing a host of impressive slow-mo cameras over the past few years, a team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis may have just beaten the rest of the pack — courtesy of a camera able to shoot rapidly enough that it can record a light sonic boom in real time.

“While a typical smart phone captures movies at 30 frames per second, our camera is capable of recording at 100 billion frames per second,” Jinyang Liang, a postdoc research assistant at the university, told Digital Trends. “For the first time, it is possible to record light propagation in real time. While sonic booms can be recorded using light, the photonic counterparts were simply too fast to record with existing technologies. Our camera is a game changer.”

Being able to photograph these elusive light sonic booms allows researchers to conclusively answer questions about whether light produces conical wakes similar to regular sonic booms (it does!). Aside from the high-tech camera, the work involved firing pulses of green laser light — each one 7 trillionths of a second — down a tunnel filled with dry ice.

camera 100 billion fps lle cup system  with labels
Jinyang Liang and Lihong V. Wang
Jinyang Liang and Lihong V. Wang

It’s fascinating work, which you can read about in the group’s published paper, but it’s most exciting because of the possibilities it presents. Being able to record light sonic booms (officially known as photonic Mach cones) in this way has several intriguing applications.

For instance, Cherenkov radiation, a variant of Mach cones, has been used in monitoring radiation doses: a use case you wouldn’t necessarily think a camera could be involved with. And Liang says that there’s another fascinating purpose it could lend itself to.

“One biomedical application our lab is interested in is to watch the ‘live traffic’ of brain signals, which are too fast to capture in real time by existing cameras,” he said. “Our university also plans to have our technology commercialized so more scientists can have access to our cameras.”

A camera speedy enough to watch our brain signals in action? Color us intrigued!


The Zotac RTX 2080 graphics card is now $100 off at $699

Nvidia's RTX 2080 is a great card, but it is rather expensive. You can get one at a record low of $699 though, thanks to a coupon code offered by B&H Photo. If you want one, act fast, as they'll sell out quickly.
Smart Home

Porch pirate problems? Keep them away with these tips and tricks

The holiday season is fast approaching and the packages are arriving on our doorsteps. Are you worried about porch pirates stealing your gifts this holiday season? Here are some tips to help protect your purchases.

If you work in an office, you should know how to recall an email in Outlook

Writing out angry emails can be cathartic, but it's best not to send them. If you do though and you're running Outlook, there is a chance to take it back -- if you act fast. Here's how to recall an email in Outlook.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high-tech and low-budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Social Media

Hotel chain offers an Instagram ‘sitter’ who will post photos for you

If the pressure to post stunning Instagram photos is ruining your vacations, then how about hiring a local Instagram influencer to do the job for you while you go off and enjoy yourself? Well, such a service now exists.
Social Media

Ride the rails and share your stories with Amtrak’s new social media residency

Amtrak is looking for travel fans with a knack for telling stories on social media. The new Amtrak social media residency program wants amateur travelers to share photos, video, and written content from aboard long-distance trips.

Full-frame mirrorless cameras just made their Hollywood debut with this thriller

The Possession of Hannah Grace isn't just a thriller -- it's also the first Hollywood feature film to be shot completely with a full-frame mirrorless camera. The film was shot with several Sony a7S II bodies and anamorphic lenses.

Lens Rentals zooms in on the most popular cameras of the year

As 2018 comes to a close, Lens Rentals is taking a look at most popular cameras of the year, based on rental data. While Sony and Panasonic saw more rentals than the previous year, Canon is still the most-rented brand on the platform.

Luminar’s new libraries don’t even need you to manually import images

Luminar 3's new libraries feature doesn't require importing -- images are automatically added after clicking on a folder. The long-promised libraries feature gives editors a Lightroom alternative with organization tools as well as syncing…
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.

Photography News: Startup redesigns tripod heads ‘inside out’ for more flexibility

Well, this doesn't look like the ball heads that we've seen before. Instead of designing a tripod ball head with a small cutout, the Colorado Tripod Company created one with most of the ball exposed, allowing for more possible angles.

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.