Scientists create world’s fastest camera, capable of capturing five trillion frames per second

We’ve all seen high-speed cameras before – the kind that capture 100,000s of frames per second, with shots of bullets shattering wine glasses. Well, those are oil paintings compared to a new camera created by scientists at Lund University in Sweden, which can film at a staggering five trillion frames per second – fast enough to capture molecular processes.

“Explosions, plasma flashes, turbulent combustion, brain activity in animals, and chemical reactions – we are now able to film such extremely short processes,” Elias Kristensson, co-inventor of the camera and combustion physics researcher, said on the university’s site.  

As you can see in the video below, the researchers have demonstrated the FRAME (Frequency Recognition Algorithm for Multiple Exposures) camera by showing how it can capture, in real time, photons of light travelling a distance equivalent to the thickness of a piece of paper.

The equipment used by the scientists in Lund is different from standard high-speed camera technology. Instead of capturing images one by one in a sequence, the FRAME camera makes use of an algorithm to capture a number of coded images in one picture, and then arranges them into a sequence afterwards.

When filming a chemical reaction, for example, they’ll expose it to light using laser flashes. Each pulse of light within the flash is assigned a different code. The object reflects the flashes, which merge into a single photograph. The scientists are then able to separate the images from each coded pulse using an encryption key.


In short, you’ll need more than a darkroom to take pictures of molecular-level processes. For more details, the researchers have previewed their article on the technology in the scientific journal Light: Science & Applications, ahead of a full publication. 

Among other uses, the scientists plan to use this technique to capture combustion as it happens at the molecular level. The idea is that being able to capture the reaction between fuel and oxygen will help them to work out ways to make engines and boilers more fuel-efficient.

“In the long term, the technology can also be used by industry and others,” said Kristensson.

Those “others” are unlikely to be molecular-level paparazzi. 

Images: Kennet Ruona, Lund University

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