6 Million Frames per Second Camera

Researchers from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at UCLA have developed a continuously operating camera that can capture images at rates of approximately 6 million frames per second. Unparalleled to existing conventional video cameras, this new technology was designed to capture high-speed events such as shockwaves, communication between living cells, neural activity, laser surgery, and elements of blood analysis.

The researchers, consisting of Keisuke Goda, Kevin Tsia, and team leader Dr. Bahram Jalali, illustrated a new technique of photography that does not require a common CCD (charge-coupled device) or CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) chip to process captured digital images. Furthermore, this new camera does not require a cooling system or high-intensity illumination, which are both common setbacks affecting conventional CCD and CMOS cameras.

Jalali, who builds on photonic time stretch converter, said that “The most demanding application for high-speed imaging involves fast events that are very rare, rogue events or the proverbial needle in the haystack — in other words, unusual events that carry important information.”

Using an ultra-short laser pulse the scientists capture an entire image with a flash of light, only a billionth of a second long. This pulse is then transformed to a serial data stream through an amplified dispersive Fourier transformer. The entire picture represented by the pulses is now amplified and stretched until the pulses are slow enough to be captured by an electronic digitizer.

Jalali adds that the issue with high speed imaging is obvious; the camera becomes less sensitive as the speed increases. As the frame rates escalate, the time needed to collect photons at each frame decreases tremendously, making the image grainy and prone to noise. However, this new Serial Time-Encoded Amplified Microscopy (STEAM) technology takes on the challenge by featuring an optical image amplification method.

“Our STEAM technology enables continuous real-time imaging at a frame rate of more than 6 MHz, a shutter speed of less than 450 picoseconds, and an optical image gain of more than 300 — the world’s fastest continuously running camera, useful for studying rapid phenomena in physics, chemistry, and biology,” said research co-author Goda, a postdoctoral researcher in the group.

It is hoped that the camera can be applied as a blood analyzer that could photograph each blood cell to count and draw useful data from the blood. Simultaneously, scientists and doctors could use the produced images to detect diseased cells from a large sample size.

TFOT has previously written on how healthcare professionals are able to detect cancer through a device that can scan blood and find signs of cancer, even at its earliest stages. You can also check out our articles about an imaging surveillance camera that can process over 100 megapixels per second and a magnet controlled camera for esophagus imaging which can be used to detect early cancer growths.

Additional information on the STEAM technology can be obtained at UCLA’s website. You can also view a video on how the camera works at UCLA’s YouTube channel.