Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ultrafast Camera Captures Images at the Speed of Light

29.04.2015

Novel camera could reveal biological phenomena previously unseen

An NIBIB grantee has developed an ultrafast camera that can acquire two-dimensional images at 100 billion frames per second, a speed capable of revealing light pulses and other phenomena previously too fast to be observed.


Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: [Nature] (L Gao et al. Nature 516, 74-77 (2014) doi:10.1038/nature14005), copyright (2014)

The CUP system configuration.

“When you turn on a laser pointer, you see an immediate beam of light. That’s because light moves so fast, you aren’t able to detect its movement with the naked eye. Using this camera, light is revealed as traveling through space from one point to another,” says the camera’s inventor, Lihong Wang, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

While other research groups have achieved higher frame rates (trillion f/s), Wang’s camera is the world’s fastest 2D camera that doesn’t require an external flash or multiple exposures. This distinction makes the camera particularly apt for imaging ultrafast, non-repetitive phenomena such as a single laser pulse or the short-lived, intermediate states of a biochemical reaction.

Wang is currently working to couple the camera to a microscope, which could help researchers gain valuable insights into previously unobservable biological phenomena.

For example, the camera could be used to visualize energy metabolism as it occurs within a cell’s mitochondria or the way light passes through tissue, an important consideration for therapies that use lasers to destroy diseased tissue with the goal of leaving healthy tissue unharmed. It could also help researchers determine how fluorescent signals decay over time. Such knowledge could be used to create fluorescent sensors that can detect diseases and cellular environmental conditions like pH or oxygen pressure.

“This camera has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of very fast biological interactions and chemical processes that will allow us to build better models of complex, dynamical systems such as cellular respiration, or to help doctors better deliver and monitor light-based therapies,” says Richard Conroy, Ph.D., program director for Optical Imaging at NIBIB.

NIH Pioneer Award enables high-impact research

The novel camera is the fruit of an NIBIB grant supported via the NIH Director's Pioneer award, which Wang won in 2012. The award provides funding to exceptionally creative scientists who propose bold research approaches that are expected to have a transformative impact on biomedical research.

“Most of the time, we have to propose something that’s reasonably safe to get funded. With the Pioneer Award, we are emboldened to push in new directions. The unbridled funds have really allowed us to explore some high-risk, high-pay off ideas,” says Wang.

Wang and his colleagues recently created several movies of single laser shots racing through different media such as air or resin and being refracted or reflected off various surfaces. They were also able to capture the moment at which a fluorescent material began to fluoresce after being excited by an incoming laser shot. This latter capability is extremely valuable to biomedical research, which relies heavily on fluorescent probes to label and track proteins, nucleic acids, and other cellular components. Wang’s camera would enable researchers to visualize these fluorescently-labeled components at light speed.

Developing an ultrafast imaging system in 2D

Several years ago, Wang bought a streak camera, a device that measures variations in the intensity of a light pulse over time. Streak cameras are capable of capturing ultrafast events, but are limited to imaging in one dimension. Wang compares this to watching a horse race through a distant slit:

“It’s not very intuitive or informative. The camera on our phones can image in two dimensions even though the temporal resolution is poor. So that pushed us to add one more dimension somehow, and the only way to do that is to use the streak camera in an unconventional way.”

Wang knew that to capture a 2D event using a streak camera, he would have to widen the camera’s narrow slit. Yet doing so would be detrimental to the temporal resolution. To get around this, Wang developed a technique called compressed ultrafast photography (CUP).

The key to CUP is that prior to reaching the streak camera, the object is first encoded by a tiny apparatus called a digital micromirror device. The process is similar to taking a picture of an object through a piece of paper that has tiny, randomly distributed holes cut out of it. The full image of the object is later reconstructed from this encoded data using sophisticated algorithms based on a relatively new technique called compressed sensing.

Wang described his innovative CUP technique in the December 4, 2014 issue of Nature.

Pushing the limit

Wang’s ultrafast 2D camera is one of several significant biomedical imaging advances that he has made over the past decade. With additional funding support from NIBIB, Wang recently overcame the optical diffusion limit, which is the depth at which light can be used to take images of tissues in the body by other existing high-resolution imaging technologies. Through the development of a technique called photoacoustic tomography, Wang was able to conquer this limit and advance the imaging depth by nearly two orders of magnitude, from one millimeter to several centimeters , an improvement that could enable doctors to acquire high-resolution images through a patient’s skin using light.

The technique is currently being tested in a number of clinical applications, including imaging breast tumors, detecting skin cancer, and tracking blood oxygenation in tissues.

For his extraordinary achievements in biophotonic technology, Wang was recently awarded the 2015 Britton Chance Biomedical Optics award from the International Society for Optics and Photonics.

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health grants EB016986 and CA186567.

Single-shot compressed ultrafast photography at one hundred billion frames per second. Gao L, Liang J, Li C, Wang, LV. Nature. 2014 Dec 04; 576(7259): 74-77.

Contact Information
Margot Kern
Writer/Editor
nibibpress@mail.nih.gov
Phone: 301-496-3500

Margot Kern | newswise
Further information:
http://www.nih.gov

Further reports about: Bioengineering Biomedical Camera NIBIB biomedical research enable fluorescent phenomena technique

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects
15.12.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake
12.12.2017 | Duke University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>