Trillion frames per second

Written for the University of Michigan’s One Cool Thing mobile app (06/15/15)

A camera faster than any other.

If you were thinking that shark week was the pinnacle of slow motion photography, until recently you may have been right. However, as The Optical Society reports, a high-speed camera that captures images at one trillion frames per second has been developed by researchers at the University of Tokyo.

STAMP, or Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography, not only processes images a thousand times faster than typical high-speed cameras, but it’s also able to record waves of atoms traveling at approximately one sixth the speed of light. STAMP hits the object to be imaged with a super short pulse of light that is split into a hail of different colored flashes. Fired at the object rapidly, each of these flashes is then analyzed to piece together a moving image. The camera succeeds where other high-speed cameras fail by cutting out the electrical and mechanical components that hinder speed in favor of a device made up of only the fastest optical components.

In the future, STAMP could lead to visualizing laser ignition of fusion and the phase transition of materials, among any number of other ultrafast events.