Van Lichoon of California Institute of Technology has already achieved outstanding results in the past by developing a camera that can capture 70 trillion frames per second – fast enough to see the movement of light. Like a smartphone camera, however, it could only produce flat images. Now the scientists in Van’s lab have gone even further, creating a camera that not only records video at incredible speeds – 100 billion frames per second – but also does so in three dimensions.
The new technology is called “Single-Stereo Polarimetric Compressed Super-Speed Photography” (SP-CUP). It records all video frames with one action, without repeating the event. This makes the CUP camera extremely fast – 100 billion frames per second. And the third dimension allows it to “see” like the human eye, says Phys.org.
When a person looks around him or her, he or she can see that some objects are closer and some farther away. This perception of depth is possible thanks to the presence of two eyes, each of which perceives the environment from a slightly different angle. The information is then combined into a single three-dimensional picture by the brain.
SP-CUP works about the same way. It has one lens, but each of its halves functions as a separate eye, the computer processes the data of the two channels in a 3D movie.
In addition, the camera has a property that humans do not have: the ability to see the polarization of light waves, i.e. the direction in which they vibrate during movement. Normal light has waves that vibrate in all directions. In polarized light, all waves vibrate in the same direction. This can occur naturally, for example, when light is reflected from a surface, or as a result of artificial manipulation, for example, through filters.
The combination of high frame rates in video shooting and the use of polarization will make the camera a powerful tool in scientific research. Van Lihun hopes in particular that it will help scientists better understand the physics of sound luminescence, the phenomenon in which sound waves create tiny bubbles in water or other liquids. When they burst, they emit light. This happens so quickly that conventional cameras cannot capture this phenomenon.