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Scientists Build World's Fastest Camera 130

Posted by timothy
from the faster-than-davey-kleinfeld dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Researchers have developed a camera that snaps images less than a half a billionth of a second long and can capture over six million images in a second continuously. Dubbed Serial Time-Encoded Amplified imaging, or Steam, the technique depends on carefully manipulating so-called 'supercontinuum' laser pulses. While other cameras used in scientific research can capture shorter-lived images, they can only capture about eight images, and have to be triggered to do so for a given event. The Steam camera, by contrast, can capture images continuously, making it ideal for random events that cannot be triggered. Keisuke Gode, lead author of the study, and his colleagues used their camera to image minute spheres flowing along a thin tube of water in a microfluidic device." (More below.)
High Pickens continues: "Using the STEAM camera they were able to image the spheres at a frame rate of 6.1 megahertz — in other words, the camera took a picture once every 163 nanoseconds. The camera could be used for studies of combustion, laser cutting and any system that changes quickly and unpredictably. One important application would be analyzing flowing blood samples. Because the imaging of individual cells in a volume of blood is impossible for current cameras, a small random sample is taken and those few cells are imaged manually with a microscope. 'But, what if you needed to detect the presence of very rare cells that, although few in number, signify early stages of a disease?,' asks Gode, citing circulating tumor cells as a perfect example of such a target. The team is working to extend the technique to 3-D imaging with the same time resolution, and to increase the effective number of pixels in a given image from 2,500 to 100,000."
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Scientists Build World's Fastest Camera

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  • by SolarStorm (991940) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:04PM (#27763559)
    But is this fast enough to photograph my wife with a closed mouth?
  • ... and call it the Serial Time-Encoded Amplified imaging Engine.

  • I can't wait! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just imagine how awesome the explosions on Mythbusters will look with this high speed camera!
  • ... Scientists build a camera faster than the world's fastest camera!

    • by pbhj (607776)

      ... Scientists build a camera faster than the world's fastest camera!

      I always thought it was engineers that built stuff (or at least that instructed machines and peons to build stuff).

      • by freaker_TuC (7632)

        I'm just keeping on the line here, last time I checked it was engineers building bridges but now-a-days anyone can build bridges ...
        The gap inbetween engineering and science is smaller than we think; how would we build the bridge if we didn't know any scientific background on this?

        I'm truely convinced science and engineering walk hand in hand; else we wouldn't be engineering something based on parameters which we know about.

  • by locnar42 (591631) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:11PM (#27763691) Homepage
    Who the hell sifts through all these pictures after they are taken?
    • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:27PM (#27763907)
      Graduate students
    • Easy
      1) Take a bunch of poor student
      2) tell them there's a naked woman doing a strip tease somewhere in this "movie".
      3) ...
      4) Profit!
      • Do poor students commonly have a fetish for watching women peeling off their skin?

        Not sure what other kind of stripping a naked woman would be able to do.

    • by x78 (1099371)

      I'd imagine you could maybe combine them into a video and play it over a few minutes?
      Regardless it would be good if you need a high quality indavidual frame of something, I'd imagine

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      Hmm, yes, if only there were a way to take a huge pile of data and sift through it for only the interesting bits...

    • Grad Students, the cheap-labour gophers of the Ph. D's.

    • At a total of only 2500 pixels per image, you can easily write a script to detect what you're searching. Just filter out everything that is "normal". Or scan for a set of pixels that match a criteria.

      Automate, people! Automate! That's what your computers were meant to be for!

      • by EdIII (1114411) *

        That's what your computers were meant to be for!

        Gee, I thought it was for porn. The rest of the stuff was just a coincidence.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...image pixel area is 1x1!

  • So, they photograph a 50x50px square half a billion time in a split second.

    But...

    How would they store it ?

    I mean... Are they going to compress on the fly a billion tiny image ?

    I didn't see anything about that in TFA.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      .5 billion * 2500 bits = 145.519152 gigabytes/s
      or .5 billion * 2500 bits = 1.13686838 terabits/s

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sarahbau (692647)

        Except it's not .5 billion per second. It's basically a .5 billionth of a second shutter speed, but only 6 million frames per second. It's also 2500 pixels per frame, not 2500 bits per frame. Let's just say it's 8 bits per pixel.

        6,000,000 x 2500 x 8 = 120 gigabits per second, or 15 gigabytes per second.

        • by benjaffe (1143843)
          Actually, it's one two-billionth of a second. But in any case, still a huge amount of storage needed.
    • by dhasenan (758719) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:27PM (#27763913)

      It's not the storage, it's the bandwidth. 50x50 is about 2k, so if you're only filming for a millisecond, storage isn't an issue -- 2GB is all. But you're not getting that onto a disk in a millisecond; you'd have a hard time getting it onto RAM.

      On the other hand, if they're changing from 8 frames to a few hundred or thousand, that should be doable, and it's a huge leap forward.

      • From the article:

        Although its current resolution is only about 2,500 pixels

        From the commentator:

        50x50 is about 2k,

        Close!

        • Well, I really doubt the 2k for 2500 pixel. Unless this is some black and white picture... with no shade of gray whatsoever.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:28PM (#27763929)
      Using FireWire, of course! Because USB would suck for this. Actually, USB sucks not just for this.
    • So, they photograph a 50x50px square half a billion time in a split second. But... How would they store it ? I mean... Are they going to compress on the fly a billion tiny image ? I didn't see anything about that in TFA.

      Easy: Google!

    • Write speed (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @04:54PM (#27764275) Homepage

      The long-term storage issue isn't the problem - my question is: Where do you get a computer memory with that kind of write speed?

      From TFA, we are talking about 2,500 pixels per frame at 6.1 megahertz framerate. Let's guesstimate 1 byte/pixel * 2,500 pixels * 6,100,000 frames = 15,000,000,000 bytes/second = ~14 Gigabytes/second.

      I don't think Sandisk makes an SD card that fast... ;-0

      Obviously, you won't be doing an entire second of images with this thing. So the proper write speed measurement would probably be more like Megabytes/microsecond or something. But you get the idea..

      • Re:Write speed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by slashqwerty (1099091) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @09:40PM (#27767231)

        From TFA, we are talking about 2,500 pixels per frame at 6.1 megahertz framerate. Let's guesstimate 1 byte/pixel * 2,500 pixels * 6,100,000 frames = 15,000,000,000 bytes/second = ~14 Gigabytes/second.

        If you're only looking to capture a few seconds, just put it in RAM and write it to long-term storage later. Write speeds for high-end consumer RAM are in that neighborhood. DDR3 1800 [pricewatch.com] can write just over 14GB/s. For a research project, 128 GB of RAM is certainly feasible. That will give you a full 9 seconds of video.

        If you need more pixels you can line up arrays in parallel to capture several seconds from each array at the same time. They can all use the same clock so everything stays synchronized.

      • by hoytak (1148181)

        Apparently, their RAID goes up to 11.

  • A camera that will actually be able to take a half-fuzzy picture of a passing bigfoot.
  • So, anyone care to explain how well this goes up against something like the Rapatronic [simplethinking.com] cameras? Obviously you're not limited to just one shot like the rapatronic.

  • SanDisk is now salivating at the prospect of a 2TB memory card, or two or three, as a MUST HAVE accessory for your next DSLR.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      Nah. At 2500 pixels (not mega! not even kilo!), you only get 6100000*2500*3 = 45.75 GB/min, or (*60) 2.745 TB per minute. ^^

      Want a full two-hour movie? Well, then you only need 329.4 TB of space
      What you say? Full-HD you want? Then 273.21754 petabytes you must have! All your bytes are belong to us!

  • ...I'll be needing new video card, then.

  • snaps images less than a half a billionth of a second long and can capture over six million images in a second

    At that rate isn't this just high-speed digital video? Really high-speed digital video? Or is digital high-speed just a series of stills taken really fast? I'm confused....

  • coming to a microsoft mouse explorer near you!

  • Finally!! (Score:1, Funny)

    by palmerj3 (900866)
    ... scientists now hope to catch Rosie O'Donnell in the act of stealing cheetos from infants.
  • Sounds like a good candidate for their next camera.

  • Hell yeah!
  • I'm sure this still isn't fast enough to capture light filling a room but I'd always dreamt of having such a video camera. Imagine, a recording a someone flicking a light switch and watching in slow-motion as the light bounces around the room filling each area. Aah, I can dream.
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      I'm sure this still isn't fast enough to capture light filling a room but I'd always dreamt of having such a video camera. Imagine, a recording a someone flicking a light switch and watching in slow-motion as the light bounces around the room filling each area. Aah, I can dream.

      You might as well do that as an experiment in ray-tracing. In real life, you won't see any change until the light reaches the area of the room containing your camera (i.e. the area that fills with light first is where the observer is).

  • How does this compare to STREAK cameras? Certainly, you can't take pictures of objects with a STREAK camera, but they have a much shorter exposure time of about 100fs and even shorter. Now use this with a modelocked pulse laser... or are the CCDs used in STREAK cameras to slow for taking pictures continously at such rates?
  • Why does a camera need to be this fast? Aren't they already fast enough?
    • Maybe for moms and dads to take pictures of their hyperactive children during family get-togethers, whereas with a normal camera, they'd just be a blur.

  • Bash quote:
    <Handy> Japanese scientists have created a camera with such a fast shutter speed,
    <Handy> they now can photograph a woman with her mouth shut.

    From: http://www.bash.org/?537155 [bash.org]

    ... Okay, I'll go get my coat.

  • It's the sound of Flickr sobbing.

"You don't go out and kick a mad dog. If you have a mad dog with rabies, you take a gun and shoot him." -- Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, about Muammar Kadhafy

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