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Crazy-fast camera shoots at 6.1 million frames per second

Scientists at UCLA have developed what they claim is the fastest camera ever. In 1 second, it can capture 6.1 million shots with the shutter speed measuring 440 trillionths of a second.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. PDT with more information about possible applications for the camera.

For shutterbugs who like to take pictures of fast-moving subjects, nothing beats a dSLR with high frame rates to capture precious moments like scoring a goal at a soccer game or a rally car cornering at breakneck speeds. However, high-end dSLRs such as the Nikon D3 can fire off at only 11 frames per second (fps). Are there other shooters that can rattle off much faster?

Scientists at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a novel, continuously running camera that they claim is the fastest shooter ever. In a mere second, it can capture 6.1 million shots with the shutter speed measuring 440 trillionths of a second.

By using a laser that emits different infrared frequencies to illuminate the subject, each pixel picks up individual signals that are amplified to be visible. According to the scientists--who detail their research in the current issue of Nature--this technology is called serial time-encoded amplified microscopy, or STEAM for short.

The study was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense's central research and development organization. One application the researchers envision 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 enough and sensitive enough for the job.

Images of cells are necessary to distinguish diseased cells from healthy ones, but currently, pictures are taken manually under a microscope from a very small sample of blood. The new camera could go much further, helping to detect the presence in fast-flowing blood of very rare cells, like tumor cells, that might be few in number but signify the early stages of a disease.

"The chance that one of these cells will happen to be on the small sample of blood viewed under a microscope is negligible," said Bahram Jalali, a UCLA professor of electrical engineering and head of the research team. "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."

Right now, STEAM can capture an image of only 3,000 pixels, but the team is planning to develop a multi-megapixel shooter that can record 100 million snaps a second. Did someone say ludicrous speed?

(Source: Crave Asia)