QUEBEC CITY, Quebec — Scientists in Canada have invented a cutting-edge camera that can capture an astonishing 4.8 million frames per second. Remarkably, this advanced technology comes at just a fraction of the price of existing high-speed cameras, which can cost over $100,000.
The research team from the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) collaborated with Canada’s Concordia University and Meta Platforms Inc. on this new technology. They used “time-gating” techniques, which control when light hits the camera’s sensor, to capture high-speed movements in an incredibly narrow timeframe.
“Our camera uses a completely new method to achieve high-speed imaging,” says Dr. Jinyang Liang, an assistant professor at the INRS, in a media release. “It has an imaging speed and spatial resolution similar to commercial high-speed cameras but uses off-the-shelf components that would likely cost less than a tenth of today’s ultrafast cameras, which can start at close to $100,000.”
What exactly is ‘time-gating’?
In conventional cameras, the shutter acts as a gate that opens and closes to control light exposure. Time-gating opens and closes this “gate” several times rapidly before capturing the image, allowing for the creation of a short, high-speed movie of the scene.
The team achieved time-gating through an innovative method known as time-varying optical diffraction. This involves rapidly changing facets on a diffraction grating — a component that splits light into various directions — to control when frames are captured.
The team developed their so-called DRUM (diffraction-gated, real-time ultrahigh-speed mapping) camera using digital micromirror devices, commonly used in projectors.
“DMDs are mass-produced and require no mechanical movement to produce the diffraction gate, making the system cost-efficient and stable,” adds Dr. Liang.
This technology has the potential to be revolutionary in various fields. For instance, the camera could be invaluable in biomedicine for real-time monitoring of drug delivery. It may also improve hazard-sensing technology in driverless cars, which use high-speed lidar systems to detect nearby objects. Lidar stands for “Light Detection and Ranging” and is a remote sensing method used to examine the environment.
“In the long term, I believe that DRUM photography will contribute to advances in biomedicine and automation-enabling technologies such as lidar, where faster imaging would allow more accurate sensing of hazards,” says Dr. Liang.
The study is published in the journal Optica.
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South West News Service writer James Gamble contributed to this report.