Scientists Build 100 Billion FPS Camera To Capture ‘Sonic Boom’ Of Light

flash of light high speed camera
Researchers from Washington University have created a camera capable of shooting at the speed of light. The camera, which is called LLE-CUP, was used to capture the ‘sonic boom’ or mach cone of a ray of light for the first time.

Now you may be thinking, hasn’t this been done before? Kind of, we even wrote about when MIT built a camera capable of capturing a ray of light in transit. You can find that post here.

The difference here is that the MIT camera and others like it use a setup of multiple sensors that shoot in a sequence to simulate high speed capture. The LLE-CUP however uses only one sensor, probably making it the fastest camera in the world at 100 billion frames per second.

“Single shot versus multi-shot is the biggest difference between our camera system and previous methods to image photonic Mach cones,” Jinyang Liang of Washington University notes


An impressive achievement for sure.

Of course an object, even a photon, can only create a mach-cone if allowed to slow down, and then be sped up. To accomplish this Liangs team first allowed the light ray to pass through a narrow tube filled with a cloud of dry ice, sandwiched between aluminium oxide and silicone. This slowed down the light enough to be able to capture the photonic-boom after the light ray exited the tube.

“The camera can be combined with photography, microscopy or even telescopes so we can adjust our spatial and temporal resolution depending on what kind of image modality we would like to couple it with.”



Liang notes that the kind of ultrafast imaging of light distribution that the LLE-CUP provides would be particularly useful in biomedicine. If coupled with a microscope, scientists might view single-shot, full-field images of 3-D microstructures in biological systems.

While these results are already impressive, Liang says his team are finessing the LLE-CUP design even further. Theoretically, he says, they could double the number of frames per second that the camera currently captures.