Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


World's fastest camera relies on an entirely new type of imaging

Ultrafast, light-sensitive video cameras are needed for observing high-speed events such as shockwaves, communication between living cells, neural activity, laser surgery and elements of blood analysis. To catch such elusive moments, a camera must be able to capture millions or billions of images continuously with a very high frame rate. Conventional cameras are simply not up to the task.

Now, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a novel, continuously running camera that captures images roughly a thousand times faster than any existing conventional camera.

In a paper in the April 30 issue of Nature (currently available online), UCLA Engineering researchers Keisuke Goda, Kevin Tsia and team leader Bahram Jalali describe an entirely new approach to imaging that does not require a traditional CCD (charge-coupled device) or CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) video camera. Building on more than a decade of research on photonic time stretch, a technique for capturing elusive events, the team has demonstrated a camera that captures images at some 6 million frames per second.

"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," said Jalali, a professor of electrical engineering and principal investigator of the project.

One of the applications he envisions for the camera is flow cytometry, a technique used for blood analysis. Traditional blood analyzers can count cells and extract information about their size, but they cannot take pictures of every cell because no camera is fast and sensitive enough for the job. At the same time, images of cells are needed to distinguish diseased cells from healthy ones. Today, pictures are taken manually under a microscope from a very small sample of blood.

But what if you needed to detect the presence of very rare cells that, although few in number, signify the early stages of a disease? Circulating tumor cells are a perfect example. Typically, there are only a handful of them among a billion healthy cells; yet these cells are precursors to metastasis, the spread of cancer that causes about 90 percent of cancer mortalities.

"The chance that one of these cells will happen to be on the small sample of blood viewed under a microscope is negligible," Jalali said. "To find these rogue cells — needles in the haystack — you need to analyze billions of cells, the entire haystack. Ultra-high-speed imaging of cells in flow is a potential solution for detection of rare abnormal cells."

The new imager operates by capturing each picture with an ultrashort laser pulse — a flash of light only a billionth of a second long. It then converts each pulse to a serial data stream that resembles the data in a fiber optic network rather than the signal coming out of a camera. Using a technique known as amplified dispersive Fourier transform, these laser pulses, each containing an entire picture, are amplified and simultaneously stretched in time to the point that they are slow enough to be captured with an electronic digitizer.

The fundamental problem in performing high-speed imaging, Jalali says, is that the camera becomes less and less sensitive at higher and higher speeds. It is simple to see why: At high frame rates, there is less time to collect photons in each frame before the signal becomes weaker and more prone to noise. The new imager overcomes this because it is the first to feature optical image amplification.

"Our serial time-encoded amplified microscopy (STEAM) technology enables continuous real-time imaging at a frame rate of more than 6 MHz, a shutter speed of less than 450 ps 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.

One such phenomenon the group has studied with the new camera is laser ablation, an important technology that is the basis of laser medicine. The camera can capture laser ablation happening in real time, providing important clues for understanding the process and optimizing its effectiveness.

"Unlike other high-speed imaging methods, our approach does not require cooling of the camera or high-intensity illumination — problems that plague conventional CCD and CMOS cameras," said Kevin Tsia, a graduate student in the group and a co-author of the research.

The study was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Department of Defense's central research and development organization.

The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmental graduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to six multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in space exploration, wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies.

Wileen Wong Kromhout | EurekAlert!
Further information:

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: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>