An ultra-fast 3D camera has been created by Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering Lihong Wang and his team at Caltech. This camera is capable of capturing 100 billion frames per second, which is actually a glacial pace compared with Wang's previous project – a 70 trillion frames per second camera. However, this reduction in fps speed has meant that the camera is capable of shooting in three dimensions for even more detail.
This 100 billion fps camera produces 'single-shot stereo-polarimetric compressed ultrafast photography' (SP-CUP), which is a technology that is capable of recording video at incredibly fast speeds in 3D. The design of the camera is based on how humans perceive depth – using our two eyes to determine how close or far away an object is.
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Wang took inspiration (opens in new tab) from human anatomy for his camera design "The camera is stereo now. We have one lens, but it functions as two halves that provide two views with an offset. Two channels mimic our eyes." This dual feed of information is run into a computer to process the data into one three-dimensional movie – similarly to how the human brain processes the images it receives from our eyes into what we perceive as 'seeing'.
So, what will Lihong Wang and his team be capturing with this groundbreaking technology? One of the areas of research he hopes the camera will help illuminate is the physics of sonoluminescence. This is a phenomenon in which sound waves create tiny bubbles in water or other liquids. As the bubbles collapse, they emit a burst of light.
Wang says, "some people consider this one of the greatest mysteries in physics. When a bubble collapses, its interior reaches such a high temperature that it generates light. The process that makes this happen is very mysterious because it all happens so fast, and we're wondering if our camera can help us figure it out."
It's pretty unlikely that this 100 billion fps technology will trickle its way down to consumer cameras, but it's still exciting to see just how far imaging technology can be pushed. We'll be interested to see what discoveries Wang and his team could go on to discover with this new camera.
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