Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report they have developed a camera that can capture the speed of light in fractions of seconds. The researchers from MIT's Media Labs suggest the new technology and imaging techniques could prove to be highly beneficial, maybe 10 years down the line, in hospitals and testing centers, as a hand-held medical scanner.


Screen grab from YouTube.

The imaging system can acquire visual data and capture images at a rate of 1 trillion frames per second and also produce a slow-motion video of light travelling through an object.

Watching this it looks like light in slow motion. It is so slow you can see the light itself move across the distance, said Ramesh Raskar, an Associate Professor of Media Arts at the Media Lab.

The researchers also say the camera can show a bullet-shaped pulse of light, travelling from one end of a laboratory flask to another in a fraction of a second. It also can create 3D images and is capable of seeing photons of light, even inside the objects they are passing through.


Photo credit: YouTube. Screen grab shows a ray of light travelling through an object.

With our ultra-fast imaging we can actually analyse how the photons are travelling through the world, Raskar told The Sunday Times.

This device developed by adapting a streaker tube to capture images with a shutter speed of 1.7 picoseconds.

“This is the speed of light captured: there is nothing in the universe that moves faster, so we are at the physical limit of high-speed photography,” Raskar added.

The researchers say the camera will not be commercially available for quite some time yet.